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The Girdle of the Great 



A 3tory of the New South 



By 



JOHN JORDAN DOUGLASS 

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BROADWAY PUBLISHING CO. 

835 BROADWAY, NEW YORK 

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TIIK NEW YO.'JK 

PUBLIC LHJilAKY 

80882h 

ASTOU. LENOX ANP 
TILOKN Kor.NDATlONS 
B 1940 L 



Copyright. 1908. 

BY 

JOHN JORDAN DOUGLASS 



AU Righti Reierred 



X 

Q 



To Annie Rumley, 

my little daughter, 

who left us, with 

the fall of leaves, 

in the golden Autumn. 



O 



CONTENTS* 



CHAPTER I. PACE. 
A Youthful Orator 1 

CHAPTER II. 
Braided Cords 7 

CHAPTER III. 
A Bit of Southern Chivalry la 

CHAPTER IV. 
The Picnic 18 

CHAPTER V. 
A Blow in the Dark 28 

CHAPTER VI. 
An Urgent Call 32 

CHAPTER VII. 
Some Surprises 48 

CHAPTER VIII. 
The Keen Edge of Disappointment 51 

CHAPTER IX. 
The Irony of Fate 85 

CHAPTER X. 
The White Visitor. 61 




B Contents. 

CHAPTER XL page. 
An Appeal to the Primitive 67 

CHAPTER XII. 
The Foreclosure of the Mortgage 75 

CHAPTER XIII. 
The New Woman and the New Man 81 

CHAPTER XIV. 
Revelations at Riverwood 88 

CHAPTER XV. 
An Exceeding High Mountain 101 

CHAPTER XVI. 
A Disturbed Doctor Ill 

CHAPTER XVII. 
The Silent Struggle 119 

CHAPTER XVIII. 
The Meeting in the Turpentine Orchard 127 

CHAPTER XIX. 
The MetUe of a Man 185 

CHAPTER XX. 
The Coming of the College President 148 

CHAPTER XXI. 
Major Graves Goes South 151 

CHAPTER XXII. 
The Parting of the Ways 162 

CHAPTER XXIII. 
The Coils of Commercialism 169 



Contents. i!i 

CHAPTER XXIV. pact 

The Mania of the Mob 174 

CHAPTER XXV. 
"The Mills of the Gods" 183 

Epilogue 193 



THE 6ISDIE OF TOE 6REAT 



CHAPTER I. 

A YOUTHFUL ORATOR. 

In the heart of a great Southern plantation, 
on a hill overlooking the golden waters of the 
Pee Dee, guarded by gigantic oaks, and begirt 
with rose-bushes and honey-suckles, stood some 
years ago a stately white-and-green house. Its 
broad verandas, massive fluted columns and airy 
rooms all marked it an ante-bellum mansion. 

A certain bright April day, quivering in the 
violet veil of the dawn, suddenly sent a stream 
of soft, silvery light through the wide east win- 
dows. Without, in highway, byway, orchard 
and open, numerous feathered songsters trilled 
and piped a merry matinee. The smell of new- 
turned earth and bursting blossom, mingled with 
the delicate and delightful aroma of long-leaf 
pines, was in the air. Along the broad river 
meadows ragged gray wisps of mist rose, and, 
curling smoke-like toward the turquoise sky, left 
for the gaze a splendid stretch of dew-washed 
emerald, flecked here and there with snowy 
sheep. 



J ■» J 



2 The Girdle of the Great 

As if to drink the wine of beauty from the 
chalice of the morning, a tall, spare-built, dark- 
eyed, dark-haired youth hurried down the man- 
sion steps, and entered a road, which led through 
the plantation to the river. His brisk, elastic step 
betrayed a rich fund of nervous energy, as did 
also the rather restless — ^though altogether de- 
termined — expression of his thin, tanned face. 
His Indian-like cheek-bones, prominent nose and 
square Scotch chin conspired to impose an in- 
superable barrier to his admission within the 
charmed circle of "Masculine Beauties." But in 
the breadth of his forehead, in the beam of his 
bright eyes, no less than in the quiet strength of 
his firmly moulded mouth, were written mastery 
and living fire. In fact, Jerome Watkins' ex- 
traordinary character had early won for him, in 
the Pee Dee country, the sobriquet of "Steady 
Romey'' (And, if it is not too painful to the 
memory of one rollicking rustic, it might be deli- 
cately added that a neighbor who once unwit- 
tingly placed a bare No. lo foot on a yellow- 
jacket's nest, remarked afterwards that "the 
dumed, pesky little critters wuz blamed nigh ez 
busy as Romey Watkins.") 

There was an unwonted seriousness in the 
youth's face as he continued his course toward 
the river. He seemed almost oblivious of his 
surroundings. The brimming melody of the 
morning failed to arouse the ardor of his spirits. 
He knit his brows and passed his hand across his 
forehead in a manner which bespoke a struggle 
with perplexing problems, or a frantic mental- 
clutching at the coat-tails of a fieeting idea. The 



• • 



• • • * 

• • • • 



The Girdle of the Great s 

^ profligate spender of life would have piarveled 
that one so youthful — indeed, he was scarcely 
one - and - twenty — should harbor a serious 
thought. Nevertheless, it was true; Jerome was 
troubled. He could draw near enough to a cer- 
tain coveted goal, only to realize that, like the 
pot of gold at the foot of the rainbow in the 
story-books, it was just beyond his grasp. 

Suddenly the tense muscles of his face re- 
laxed. Snatching off his broad-brimmed pal- 
metto hat, he sent it spinning upward. "Whoop- 
ee, that'll do 'em!'* he cried ecstatically. 

Finally he reached a spot on the river bank 
marked by a clumv of willows and a huge boul- 
der of red sandstone. At no great distance an 
old negro was industriously plowing a mule. 
Assuring himself that there were no other audi- 
tors, Jerome mounted the rock and began a 
speech on the "New South." 

He vociferously recited facts which, though 
often crudely expressed, bespoke unusual reach 
and research for a country youth just entering 
his majority. 

"Slavery," he declared, speaking of the old 
regime then twenty odd years past, "had more 
power to harm the white man than to harm the 
negro. The former had everything in the gift 
of a great nation to gain by individual effort, the 
latter nothing; the former faced a golden fu- 
ture, the latter an unwritten page. 

"Under slavery, there could have come to the 
white man no great mental impetus — ^no incen- 
tive to keep pace with the stride of a strenuous 
civilization. The proclamation which freed the 



9 ^The Gibdls of the Great 

slaves struck the shackles from thousands of poor 
white men, bearing the brand of hirelings, giv- 
ing them an equal chance with the former slave- 
owners." 

The speaker affirmed that the overshadowing 
present-day problem of the South did not then 
present, and never had presented, difficulty as to 
former slaves; that the burden of crime in the 
Black Belt rested not upon them, but upon a 
post-belliun generation, with whom education was 
a string of beads and religion a fetich ; who left 
the farms to infest towns and cities like insects 
lured by the light of a candle, Yet, the youthful 
orator believed a better and brighter day would 
dawn. This great and grievous problem would 
eventually find its solution in a proper moral, re- 
ligious and industrial training of the negro race 
— in an education which taught the black man to 
recognize and respect rather than to recklessly 
disregard the limitations placed upon him by na- 
ture. 

This speech was brought to sudden close by a 
loud splash in the water nearby. Jerome quiddy 
glanced around to discover the cause of the com- 
motion. 

It was highly important that he should not be 
overheard by some parties. Perceiving a great, 
green-mottled bullfrog seated nearby, he con- 
cluded that the commotion had been created by a 
nervous member of that raucous tribe. 

Nevertheless, he decided to discontinue his 
i^peecn. 

Entering the pbt where the old negro was 



The Girdle of the Great s 

plowing, he cried : "What were you throwin' at. 
Uncle Sam?" 

"Frowin' at?" queried the old negro, giving 
the mule a peremptory jerk. "I ain't bin frowin' 
at nuffin', 'cept cusses at dis debblish an' decebin' 
mule. Whatcher mean, Marse Romey?" 

"Oh, nothin' — did you hear me speakin'?" 
asked the youth, dropping with evident relief his 
oratorical ''ings," 

"G)'se I did, chile, co'se I did, w'en you wuz er 
floppin' erroun' in yo' gwineson lak er bullfrog 
wid de brown-skeeters* — des erbusin' an' er run- 



nin' 



down an' er scan'lizin' po' ole hones' niggers." 

"I haven't been doin' that. Uncle Sam," replied 
the young man, a fond light in his dark eyes ; "I 
think too much of you for that; we have a De- 
batin' Society up at the Academy, and a gold 
medal is to bie awarded to the boy who makes the 
best speech Commencement night. Your race is 
to be the subject of the Debate. I will say that 
you can be made better by religion, and that mil- 
lions of '* 

"Dat's de truf— dat's de Gawd's truf— Marse 
Romey," ejaculated the old man, with a grin 
which set his teeth a-gleam like white seed in a 
red-meat watermelon, "des tek de Mefodis' praar- 
book in one han' an' er watermillion un'er de t'er 
arm, an' you kin led dis heah nigger clean ter de 
deb— I means ter de pearly gates, Marse Romey," 
he corrected quickly — "Wha! wha! wha!" With 
that the old man resumed the burden and the 

^Bronchitis. 



6 The Girdle of the Great 

mule, leaving Jerome fairly bent double with 
laughter. 

"Don't mention what I've said to a livin* soul. 
Uncle Sam," said Jerome earnestly when the old 
negro had returned to the end of the row, "spe- 
cially to Grabe Allen ; he's on the other side." 

"You knows I woan', you knows I woan', 
honey," came the ready though somewhat pride- 
injured response. (He had ever been a stickler 
for the family fidelity.) "Ole Sam ain't gwine 
ter gib you erway, dat he ain't." 

Then, well pleased with his progress, and con- 
fident that his secret would be seciu'e — even if old 
Sam knew enough to be communicative — ^Jerome 
returned home, whistling merrily. The shining 
mark, toward which he had been steadily press- 
ing since the fall opening of the "Pee Dee Acad- 
emy," seemed nearer than ever. It was an honor 
worth striving for; and, moreover, it meant to 
the winner a scholarship at "Forest College/' 

Now, though at one time accounted the wealthi- 
est planter abng the Pee Dee, certain financial 
embarrassments had prevented Col. Watkins from 
giving Jerome the advantage of a college educa- 
tion. Above all things (even above the ambrosial 
cup of artful Cupid) Jerome thirsted for the 
sparkling waters of the Empyrean Spring. But, 
according to ancient proverb, "There's many a 
slip 'twixt the cup and the lip." 



The Girdle of the Great 



CHAPTER II. 

BRAIDED CORDS. 

Commencement Day had arrived. The seating 
capacity of the Academy being insufficient, a 
great bush-arbor had been erected adjoining the 
front entrance. Rude slabs served for seats; a 
layer of sawdust for flooring. 

On every hand rose the ''stands" of the inevita- 
ble and indispensable lemonade-vendors. 

Suddenly a reverential "sh-h" rippled over the 
audience, and Mr. MacDonald, the orator of the 
day, and President of the bank at Ansonville, a 
town about five miles distant, arose, cleared his 
throat, and, adjusting his glasses, announced as 
his theme, ''Our Commercial Opportunity," 

Jerome was seated with his parents and two 
younger brothers near the center of the audience. 
His attention was instantly riveted, not — strange 
to say — upon the speaker, but upon a beautiful 
blonde maiden, who had been partially concealed 
behind the speaker's back. Her exquisitely- 
molded oval face seemed to the youth a perfect 
model of feminine sweetness and strength. Dark- 
blue eyes, with a bewitching, fascinating expres- 
sion, instantly melted their way into his heart — 
sincei at one-and-twenty, hearts are seldom ossi* 



8 The Giiimje op the Gkeat 

fied. He eventually found himself almost unable 
to divert his attention from her. 

The speaker's sturdy logic about the climatic 
advantages, the water-power, the mineral re- 
sources of the South marched forth slowly and 
steadily — an infantry of cold facts, well groomed, 
mailed and armored — but Jerome heard not A 
strange ecstacy thrilled him. He began to dream 
indefinite and indefinable dreams. The glittering 
gold, which had for months exclusively held his 
attention, faded into floating fairy visions. He 
had feh the touch of the master-passion. Thence- 
forth his path was to lead beside love-lit waters, 
through primroses and pansies, along the crest of 
hills wound with trailing-arbutus and wreathed 
in golden mist 

He was so lost in fancy that he started vio- 
lently at the hearty applause which greeted the 
close of the banker's address. 

"Why, what ails you, Romey?" exclaimed CoL 
Walldns, glancing quickly around. ''What made 
you jump so?" 

"He's been thinking about the debate ; but he'll 
be all right when the time comes — and win the 
medal, too," interposed the mother, with an en- 
couraging smile. 

Jerome refrained from speech. Though natu- 
rally quick to detect and correct mistakes, he was 
quite willing to accept the friendly shelter of this 
one. 

His youngest brother, Walter, however, who 
had been furtively watching him, was not to be 
to easily satisfied. Before the mother could in* 



The Gisple of the Great 9 

terfere, he pointed to the rostrum and blurted 
out in a loud tone: "No, he ain't either; I seen 

him lookin' sweet at that purty gal! I— I -" 

The mother silenced the obstreperous youngster 
with a frown. Nevertheless, a titter, begun in 
the Watkins' vicinity, went, as usual, the rounds 
of the audience. The girl in question, who had 
chanced to be looking toward Jerome, blushed 
crimson, while his face went — if possible — a 
shade beyond. 

Presently, in the confusion and commingling 
of the departing crowd, Jerome found himself 
near her. In a moment the banker, recognizing 
the son of an old patron, had presented Jerome 
to Miss Maxine MacDonald. 

Jerome heard the announcement that she 
would visit Marjoric Allen with a sharp pang of 
disappointment; and remembered only, as they 
passed on, that the girl's wonderful blue eyes had 
looked into his with a sweet, half-startled expres- 
sion, and that a wave of rich cobr had flooded 
her fair cheeks. 

He found it extremely difficult — ^well-nigh im- 
lK)ssible — ^that afternoon to confine his thoughts 
to the query of the coming debate, especially 
since he frequently saw Gabriel Allen and the 
banker's niece together. 

The president of the Debate had rapped for 
order. The judges of the contest, including Mr. 
MacDonald, had taken their places. When quiet 
was obtained, the secretary rose and read the 
query, "Resolved, that the Emancipation of the 
negro has been injurious to the South/* and aor 



lo The Gisdle of the Great 

nounced the first speaker on the affirmative. Then 
Gabriel Allen, tall, heavily built and handsome, 
rose amid a hearty round of applause. His fair, 
smooth face was flushed with anticipated suc- 
cess; a gleam of victory shone in his blue eyes. 
He began, in a melifluent, well-modulated tone, 
to review the causes which led up to the Emanci-- 
potion of the Negro. Then little by little, with 
the soft, confidential strides of the tiger, he ap- 
proached Jerome's speech, till suddenly he 
sprang upon it and punctured it with the sharp 
teeth of stinging satire. 

Jerome's face went white as death. He leaned 
far over, a startled, mystified expression in his 
dark eyes. Had old Sam betrayed him? If not, 
by some machiavellian art or instinct, Gabe Al- 
len was making his speech — ^and making it ridic- 
ulous before the one to whom, above all others, 
he wished for some reason to present a fine ap- 
pearance. 

He will tell you," continued the speaker, 
that the negro can, by morality and religion, 
be made a better citizen; but I know and you 
know and everybody knows that more stealing 
is done during a negro camp-meeting than at any 
other time (laughter and great applause), and 
that the biggest shouters are the biggest stealers. 

"Give us the good old ante-bellum days," he 
concluded, "with the niggers happier, healthier 
and less criminal; but the Lord deliver us from 
a New South with an old sore." 

He resumed his seat amid thunderous ap- 
plause. Then the band struck up "Dixie," and 
the crowd went wild 






The Gibdle of the Great it 

Jerome, gazing out into the swirling sea of 
faces, caught at last the reflected gleam of tri- 
umph in Maxine MacDonald's face. He stag- 
g^ted blindly to his feet in response to the call 
for the negative. The lights flickered; the audi- 
ence swam before him. He tried to speak, but 
his memory suddenly went hopelessly blank. 
Dazed and bewildered, he sank into his seat amid 
painful silence. The speeches folbwing were 
cotorless and inanimate. Owing to Jerome's fail- 
ure, there were no rejoinders. 

The judges went out for consultation and soon 
returned. There was a moment of tense silence; 
then Mr. MacDonald, in a few appropriate 
words, presented the medal to Gabriel Allen. 
Jerome sat there with bowed head and broken 
heart. It was the one decided failure — ^the mini- 
ature crisis — of his life. The fact that he had 
been defeated unfairly was no recompense; the 
audience did not know that. 

When relatives and admiring friends, includ- 
ing the beautiful Maxine MacDonald, came to 
congratulate Gabriel, Jerome crept unobserved 
through a merciful side-door, and, staggering 
weakly out to his father's carriage, leaned for 
support upon a wheel. The braided cords of de- 
feat smote to the quick of his soul. A bitter sob 
shook his frame. "Oh, God," he cried, "why did 
I fail, why ?" 

There was a sudden rustling movement in the 
rear, and he turned quickly to enter the arms of 
his mother, who had followed him. 

"My precious boy," she said softly, pressing 
him to her bosom as she had done in the olden 



12 The Giio^le of the Great 

days. "You won't always fail — ^you will yet 
make your mark; I believe in you. There is in 
you the making of a man/' 

He started to reply, but at the moment an ap- 
proaching foot-fall arrested his attention. His 
father was near at hand, and the boy knew him 
too well to offer any explanation. The Cobnefs 
motto was "Excelsior!' 



TSE (kWBLK OP THE GrEAT I3 



CHAPTER III. 

A BIT OF SOUTHERN CHIVALRY. 

It IS needless to relate that Jerome spent a 
sleepless night. His brain was in a whirl. Chill- 
ing sensations swept over him. Despite every 
effort to hate her, he could not shake off his 
strange infatuation for Maxine MacDonald. It 
held him with an iron grip— and yet with a link 
of gold. 

Bright and early he crept from his room and 
sought the spot where he had practiced for the 
debate. As he was passing the little cabin, a 
short distance below the house, a familiar voice 
called out : "Lors-a-massy, is dat you, Marse Ro- 
mey, gwine a-fishin* in de cool uv de mawnin' ?* 

"No, not for suckers," cried the youth, quick- 
ening his pace, without looking back at the black 
face framed in the cabin window. 

'Fer cats den, Marse Romey?" 

'Yes, for black cats that scratch their friends/' 
retorted Jerome, turning angrily to confront the 
negro. "Why did you tell Gabe Allen about my 
speech? I lost the medal." 

The old negro's countenance fell beneath the 
sudden weight of surprise, and he leaned far 
over with his elbows upon the narrow window- 
sill, in an attitude of utter pain. 






14 The Girdle of the Great 

'To' Gawd, I ain't tol' him nuffin', Marse Ho- 
mey," he exclaimed, brokenly. 

"Well, come and go with me then ; maybe you 
didn't," said Jerome, relenting. (The negro in- 
stantly obeyed.) "But there's some mystery 
here." 

"Dat I didn't, kase I lubs you mos' lak I do 
dem dar niggers," the old maii continued, with 
a toss of his head toward two ebony-hued boys 
sitting in the doorway. Jerome could not re- 
press a smile at the ludicroui but innocent com- 
parison in which the old negro classed him with 
Bill and Ben. 

When they reached the desired spot, Jerome 
revealed his purpose. They accordingly climbed 
down to the river-edge of the great rock, 
screened from land-view by a thick cluster of 
reeds, and began their search. At first it seemed 
destined to prove fruitless ; there was no evidence 
of espionage. Finally Jerome turned to leave. 
He had almost cleared the rock, when he noticed 
that a fragment, where it was seamed and 
cracked, had been recently broken oflF. Stooping 
to examine this more closely, he caught from be- 
low at the left base of the reeds a swift flash of 
something white. Bending over, he was startled 
to behold that it was an envebpe thus inscribed: 
"Miss Maxine MacDonald • 

The town and state were go blurred by a re- 
cent rain that he could not decipher them. Je- 
rome hastily picked up the envelope and thrust 
it in his pocket, saying nothing to old Sam, who 
was now some distance away. 

Suddenly the sound of voices and the rhythmic 



The Girdle of the Great 15 

plash of paddles broke on the air. They came 
nearer and nearer. Then, as a boat rounded a 
bend in the river and swept in sight, Jerome re- 
treated behind the reeds, and motioned to the 
negro to remain quiet. 

In a few moments the voices could be plainly 
distinguished. 

"That is the place — ^yonder where the big rqck 
juts out into the water. I was fishing. Maybe I 
lost it there!" "At any rate," continued the 
speaker, "it contained a photograph and a 
prophecy that came true — ^that Fd win the De- 
bater's medal." 

"So I see that a prophet is honored in his own 
country." "And, by the way," continued the 
feminine voice, "I was so sorry for the young 
man who failed; he has such a fine face; he 
must be intelligent." 

"Humph! he has a poor way of showing it," 
exclaimed her companion in a tone of irritation. 

By this time the keel of the boat had grated 
on the rock, and, throwing the anchor-chain 
around a projecting staub, Gabriel Allen — for it 
was he — leaped ashore. "I'll be back in a mo- 
ment," he called to his companion. 

"I hope you will find it," she replied, as she 
playfully ran her fingers through the water on 
either side of the boat. 

Suddenly, before Jerome could interfere, old 
Sam rushed forward and confronted Gabriel, 
crying, with all the family pride of the ante- 
bellum attache ringing in his voice: 

"Git off'n dis heah plantashun; git off'n de 
Kun'el's Ian', rite heah whar you dun stol' Marse 



4 



16 The Girdle of the Great 

Romey*s speech ! Whatcher doin' on dis side tnr 
de rib " 

"Shut up, you black scoundrel, or I'll make you 
shut up !" cried Gabriel, purple with passion. He 
clenched his fist and glared savagely at the old 
negro. 

"Dat I woan— dat I woan on de Kun'el's *' 

"Then take that, you kinky headed imp!" Ga- 
briel leaped forward to strike the old negro a 
terrific btow in the face, but in a twinkling Je- 
rome Watkins rushed between, catching the full 
force of the blow on his chest A moment later 
he had rebounded, and, despite every effort at 
resistance, forced Gabriel slowly backward till he 
stood on the very brink of the river. There 
Jerome held him firmly as a vise. "You should 
remember," he gasped with suppressed anger, 
"to respect the presence of a woman and age, 
even in a nigger. "As to your stealin' my 
speech " 

"You lie!" cried Gabriel, struggling vainly 
to break the grasp of his assailant. 

"Hush!" thundered Jerome, stifling a strong 
impulse to strike; "you shall not speak thus be- 
fore her — go your way." "And go it quickly/' 
he added, releasing him. 

"Great talk for my father's hirelings,** sneered 
Gabriel, as he turned away. (It was a reference 
to the mortgage which Dr. Allen held on River- 
wood.) Jerome's eyes flashed and his temples 
swelled with rage. Only by dint of desperate ef- 
fort he controlled himself. "Go,** he gasped— « 
"or I'll thrash you within an indh of your life. 
Go! I say.** 



k 




'You lie!' cried Gabnel." 



yai,«t' tBsr II, 



THE NEW YORK 
PUBLIC LIBRARY 






*m 



The Gikdle op the Great vj 

And Gabriel stood not on the order of his go- 
ing, but quickly entered the boat, where Maxine 
sat, pale and ill at ease. 

Before the boat could be pushed off, however, 
Jerome stepped forward and gracefully tossed 
the letter into Maxine's lap. **That*s for you. 
Miss MacDonald," he said in a voice still tremu- 
lous with passion. 

"Thanks," she replied, with a smile which sent 
his heart to his mouth. 

He watched them till they disappeared behind 
the "Big Bend," then, calling old Sam, he went 
slowly homeward with conflicting emotions stir- 
ring in the great deep of his soul. 



k * * 



-i^- 



-x8 The Gibdle of the Great 



CHAPTER IV. 

THE PICNIC. 

For many years it had been customary to hold 
at Murray's Mill, on a tributary of the Pee Dee, 
an annual picnic. To this well-watered and' well- 
shaded spot the folk of the neighborhood, old and 
young, were wont to assemble to listen to open- 
air speeches and to make bounteous noonday 
"spreads." So accordingly every vehicle which 
entered the great oak grove contained, some- 
where, a brimming basket, or mayhap a small 
clay-bank-colored trunk securely strapped on be- 
hind. 

Hither, in the early morning of a delightful 
June day, rode Jerome Watkins. The birds 
chirped sweetly in every leafy avenue; soft, sil- 
very ripples lay upon the pond, where a thousand 
water-lilies drooped their glistening heads. In 
truth, ever3rthing accorded with the youth's spir- 
its. He was to see Maxine this day — ^to be near 
her — ^to listen to the dreamy melody of her voice. 

Eagerly he watched every incoming buggy and 
carriage. Many times he turned away a dis- 
appointed face. "Surely, she will come," he said 
aloud, "if only Gabe Allen wouldn't monopolize 
her time. He always has the advantage." 



The Girdle of the Great "^19 

The words were scarcely out of his mouth 
when, as if to confirm them, a shining, new top- 
buggy dashed up; and, haughtily throwing his 
lines to a nearby negro, Gabriel leaped out to as- 
sist Maxine to alight. Though Jerome had ex- 
pected them to come together, rather than in the 
family carriage, his heart sank at the sight. He 
had tried to make an engagement with Maxine 
for the occasion. 

A dark frown gathered on Gabriel's brotv 
when he saw Jerome, but Maxine smiled pleas- 
antly in recognition. Gabriel's sharp eyes noted 
her ill-concealed delight. Following this, nothing 
worth relating occurred till the hour for the ad- 
dress was at hand. Then people began to ex- 
press anxiety about the non-appearance of the 
speaker. Several minutes passed, and still he 
had not come. Finally it became evident that he 
would not arrive in time. Some of the leading 
planters soon began to cast about for a substitute 
(for "Tar-heels" — even those who snore rau- 
cously through a sermon — ^have a decided wake- 
fulness for "stump-speeches"). Suddenly one 
or two voices shouted: "Allen! Allen! Gabriel 
Allen!" There was no response; then the call 
became clamorous and imperative. This was 
what Gabriel had been waiting for. With a pom- 
pous stride he mounted the rostrum. The medal, 
dangling at the end of his watch-chain, caught 
midway a straggling ray of light and threw a 
golden gleam far out into the impromptu audi* 
ence ; in his eyes there lurked a greenish gleam. 

"Ladies and Gentlemen," he said, "I thank you 
for your kindness, but I cannot make you a 



JO The Girdle of the Gbeat 

speech. I shall, however, take the liberty of In- 
troducing to you that peerless, silver-tongued 
orator of the Pee Dee, Mr. Jerome Watkins." 

It was a cruel, heartless thrust— one worthy of 
Gabriel Allen — ^meriting only the rebuke of si- 
lence which it received. Col. Watkins, who was 
standing nearby, bit fiercely at his short, gray 
moustache, and, involuntarily, his hand fell to 
his hip, as it had done in the palmy, chivalric 
days of the old regime; but, with an effort, he 
controlled himself. Maxine MacDonald's eyes 
flashed, her face went crimson, and she used her 
fan vigorously for a moment. Jerome, upon 
whom all eyes were now centered, swallowed 
hard; his thin face waxed white as death. Then 
his dark eyes glowed ; his strong mouth hardened 
like granite ; and, with resolution written in every 
stride, he mounted the platform amid thunder- 
ous applause. 

In a quavering, hesitating voice he thanked 
Gabriel Allen for the honor of the introduction 
and the audience for the evidences of pleasure at 
his appearance. Then, as he continued, his voice 
become clear and strong, silvery and full of pas- 
sion, till the audience swayed to and fro beneath 
its hypnotic power like reeds before the cross-cur- 
rents of a summer gale. Gabriel Allen shrank 
into the remotest corner of the crowd; Maxine 
MacDonald's face shone with unconscious joy. 
The youthful speaker, to the infinite surprise of 
all, strongly summed up the advantages of the 
New South, but declared that the new was the 
outgrowth and transformation of the old; that 
all the better elements of the old had been care- 



The Gibdle of the Gkeat 21 

fully conserved in the new, becoming its very 
salt of savour; that the biood of the fathers in 
the veins of the sons was the elixir of life to the 
New South, Once he hesitated, as if about to 
cease, but the crowd shouted, "Go on! go onl" 

When he finally stopped, he was not suffered 
to descend to the ground, but was borne off on 
the shoulders of enthusiastic admirers. 

His triumph was complete. Gabriel Allen had 
been beaten at his own game. 

Later, when Maxine came to offer her con- 
gratulations, Jerome found courage to ask her to 
go rowing with him, and she brqke an all-day 
ei^agement with Gabriel to accept the invitation. 
As the boat drifted idly here and there among 
the clustering pond-lilies, Jerome confided ta her 
his cherished dreams. But when he came to the 
Debate his voice sank. That was the precipice — 
the pit — into which his recent triumph had 
scarcely thrown more than a ray of light. 

"Don't despair," she said. "You have great 

talent; you will succeed if " 

"If you will love me, Miss Maxine!" he broke 
in with a sudden influx of courage. A light of 
tenderness glowed in his dark eyes like silvery 
I moonbeams in murky waters. 

"Why, what do you mean ?" she asked. "You 
I sudden — so startling." Her fair cheeks 
1 as clustering cherries. 

say, Maxine," he breathed 

lU — I love you — the moment I 

lommencemcnt day I loved you. 

I fail then, now help me to skc- 

:an you — return my love?" 




22 The Girdle of the Great 

The question quivered with a flood of passioiu 
He bent over as if to receive her answer in his 
arms, but something in her face checked him. 

"One ot your talent should have a college edu- 
cation/' she said, with a pathetic little effort to 
change the subject, "you shouldn't *^ 

"Must one go to college to learn to tove, Max- 
inc?" he broke in hoarsely. The boat was drift- 
ing now; in a moment it entered a little eddy and 
whirled slowly toward the shore. "Won't you 
bve me, Maxine ?" he pleaded. 

"Why, I — I never thought of — of you asking 
me that," she faltered. "We have laiown each 
other such a short while ; and Marjorie loves — ** 

"Well, what difference does that make?" he in- 
terrupted. "I have known Marjorie for years, 
and yet I do not love her." There was native 
honesty rather than unfeeling cruelty in his low 
tones. "I loved you at first sight." 

"But you said that a collegiate education was 
your g^eat aim and ambition. Education is the 
Girdle of the Great; you must have it. Too many 
in our Southland esteem it but a fool's bauble. 
Even if I loved you I could not mar your splendid 
, future." 

Jerome felt the fountain of hope wither within 
his heart. 

"Then you cast me off?" he said bitterly, with 
a dead white despair in his face — for all time. 

"No, till educationally you are my superior." 

"Then I shall be," he said with a steel-strong 
bok about the mouth, "if I must walk through 
thorns and fire." 



The Girdle of the Great 23 



CHAPTER V. 

A BLOW IN THE DARK. 

On landing, they found the picnic party, includ- 
ing Gabriel Allen, gone. Jerome did not regret 
their departure. But Maxine twisted her red 
lips into a rueful, though not unbecoming, pout 
when she noted the absence of her erstwhile es- 
cort. In fact, one would have supposed from 
her displeased demeanor that the grievance was 
wholly on her side. This, however, has always 
been, and doubtless always will be, a distinctively 
feminine prerogative. 

*W(?w what shall I do?" she exclaimed petu- 
lantly. " Tis full three miles to Rocky Heights 
and I'm but an indifferent walker!" She gave 
vent to her perplexity by softly tapping the toe 
of a dainty slipper with the tip of her parasol — a 
mild way of expressing a woman's woe. 

"Why, we'll ride back in the good old colonial 
style," comforted Jerome, turning to a sleek sor- 
rel horse, which happily was still tethered where 
he had left him in the morning. "The old ways 
are the best ways, after all." 

He untied the horse and began to unbuckle the 
saddlegirth preparatory to arranging the blanket 
behind the saddle. 

"Ah, I thought you were a disciple of the New 



a4 The Gibdle of the Great 

South," she observed archly, measuring in the 
swift glance the possibility of maintaining a safe 
seat on the improvised palfrey. 

"And so I am," he replied, as he tested the 
strength of the saddlegirth, politically. "In sen- 
timent, I am with the Old South. I believe in its 
soul of honor — ^its sense of chivalry." 

A light of admiration which she was un- 
able to restrain suddenly leaped to the girl's 
eyes. Where had this unlettered youth im- 
bibed such knowledge? Had not the foun- 
tains of Southern chivalry long since withered 
and ceased to send forth their sparkling 
flow ? She caught a swift vision of another foun- 
tain, whose frantic fury gushed out a glittering 
yellow flow of molten gold. Young as she was, 
she had been taught that the possession of wealth 
was knowledge ; but somehow, despite all of her 
preceptors, and the pressure of environment, she 
had reversed that theory. A generation back in 
her family there had been a learned man — ^an 
ever-thirsting student — ^and the money-getters 
who had followed him had been unable to blot out 
that ''bar sinister^' from the blood. At the age of 
eighteen Maxine MacDonald was almost a 
scholar; that is to say, she was conversant with 
scholarly productions. 

After diligent search for one in whom the best 
ideals of the Old South lived with the best and 
the brightest of the New — for one, indeed, whom 
she purposed and hoped to find in the feminine — 
she had found her afiinity in a country youth. 
A flood-tide of fancy submerged her heart for a 



The Girdle of the Great 25 

moment. And she gazed at Jerome with a sort 
of dream-like radiance in her face. 

Jerome, had he been conversant with the more 
recent novels, might have seen in this the "psy^ 
chological moment/' But, as he was not, he in- 
terpreted her silence and facial expression to 
mean simply fear and hesitancy about accepting 
the improvised seat behmd his saddle. "If you'll 
just mount that big rock yonder. Miss Maxine," 
he said, pointing to a boulder a few yards dis- 
tant, "you'll have no trouble about taking your 
seat. And I promise, on my honor, to help you 
keep it till you get to Rocky Heights." 

With a nervous little laugh she did as she was 
bidden. A moment later she was safely mounted 
on the make-shift side-saddle. And as, perforce, 
it became necessary for her to place her soft arms 
around his waist, Jerome speedily forgot all 
other girdles of the great. "This is the way our 
forebears took their weddin' tours," he said mis- 
chievously, as he turned the horse's head toward 
Rocky Heights. He glanced over his shoulder 
and saw that his words had sent a wave of deep 
carmine to her cheeks. 

"Please God that this one of their descendants 
may not be required to do so," she retorted. "I 
prefer a top-buggy." 

Jerome winced, and ventured no more inno- 
cent remarks on that score. 

Slowly, partly because it was necessary, and 
partly because he so willed it, they rode toward 
Roclcyr Heights, Dr. Allen's princely estate. The 
sweet calm of eventide lay amber hued on wood 
and lane and emerald field, save for the liquid 



26 The Girdle of the Great 

vespers of mocking-birds, or the silvery tinkling 
of sheep bells, or l^e plaintive call of quails deep 
in the tangled coverts. 

"I believe I will walk the rest of the way," 
said Maxine suddenly, as they were nearing a 
rough stretch of road. "I am devoted to walk- 
ing, when the distance is not too great/' she 
added quickly. 

''It is more than a mile, and the road is al- 
most impassable for foot-travellers. I could not 
think of letting you do so," Jerome replied with 
determination. 

"Letting me do so?" she echoed. "Why, you 
talk as if you were a king, and I captive being 
borne off to some g^ay and gruesome castle. I 
shall walk, sir, if I will." There was, however, 
a note of satisfaction in the retort which was not 
wasted on Jerome's ears. He was not slow to 
read its meaning. She was not displeased to find 
him the possessor of a strong will. 

"You must stay where you are," he said gently, 
but with an undercurrent of resolution, "for your 
OTvn sake." 

"Oh, yes, I'm pre-eminently selfish," she re- 
plied with a trace of merriment in her tone. 
"Therefore I can consistently obey." 

^^ ^r ^^ ^^ ^^ ^^ ^^^ 

All too soon for Jerome the delightful, old- 
fashioned ride was at an end. As he drew rein 
before the mansion at Rocky Heights, he caught 
a sudden glimpse of Gabriel scowling in the 
doorway. "Looks like I'll have a duel on my 
bands/' Jerome observed playfully. 



The Girdle of the Great VJ 

"The Old South again," she mocked, a. mis- 
chievous light in her blue eyes. 

"Yes, an old sword for an old story," he 
flashed back. "Miss Maxine," he continued, 
when he had assisted her to dismount, "will you 
go driving with me to-morrow afternoon?" His 
voice shook now, despite a desperate effort to ap- 
pear composed. He knew that she would depart 
the day after for her far southern home, and 
that this would be his last opportunity. He 
awaited her answer with breathless eagerness, his 
heart throbbing tumultuously. She hesitated a 
moment, in which she seemed to toy with her 
decision as if it were a dainty kerchief, then look- 
ing him squarely in the eyes, flung forth a strong 
and decisive "iVo." Before he could recover 
from his surprise, she had turned, entered the 
gate and fled like a white mist up the narrow box- 
wood avenue. 

Marjorie, Gabriel's sister, stood on the veran- 
da. "Oh Max," she exclaimed, "you're just in 
time to stop a searching-party. Ton my word 
we thought you'd run off with — with Jerome." 

Maxine detected beneath the banter a pathetic 
little plea. "Why, no, Marjy," she said with 
mischievous intonation ; "he ran off with m^— or 
rather I should say, rowed off, since we went in 
a boat. What became of you? I never — " 

"Oh, Gabriel made me come home with him — 
said that you had deserted him — ^that the Wilber 
boys down the way would laugh if he drove by 
with no one — I begged him to wait, but he 
wouldn't — ^he's always been spoiled, you know — " 

"Miss Maxine, you've left your parasol/^ came 



28 The Girdle of the Great 

a desperate voice from the vicinity of the gate. 

"Oh, yes. Just leave it at the gate, won't you, 
please?" she called back sweetly. 

Then Jerome, having snatched at his last straw, 
mounted his horse and rode on his way to River- 
wood. Nevertheless, his heart palpitated with 
the stirring incidents of the day. A bright star 
seemed suddenly to have burned through his 
black horoscope. Not even Maxine's refusal to 
grant his last request could dim the golden 
gleams of hope. 

Slowly, with the fancied impress of her soft, 
shapely arms still about him, he rode. His bridle- 
rein lay slackened — almost drooping on the 
horse's neck. He revelled in the thought that he 
would be like the strong, sturdy oak to the cling- 
ing ivy of Maxine's love. That she had given 
him even faint encouragement, was a vital tonic 
to his soul. Like the widow's measure of meal, 
that measure, however infinitesimal, would pos- 
sess the power to prolong itself. But the girl's 
words — and he was forced to admit — high-flown 
ways, had suggested a fact which seemed gro- 
tesquely out of harmony with the former fitness of 
things ; that he, a gentleman's son and the son of 
an aristocrat, should be forced to admit that good 
breeding alone was not sufficient qualification to 
the woman whom he sought in marriage. Noth- 
ing more surely marked the passing of an old 
regime. And yet he did not understand the mo- 
tive-spring of that passing. What new forces 
were at work in the South? What reconstruc- 
tion was to crown Reconstruction? Whence had 
this mere girl, wbo> on occasion, could be as 



The Girdle of the Great ^9 

frivolous as April sky, received such startling 
theories? These questions arose in Jerome's 
mind, but they remained unanswered. 

As to the matter of her refusal to accept his 
invitation to go driving, he saw in that only a 
woman's freak of fancy. In his opinion it had 
no bearing on the case, one way or the other. 
The fact that she had spent the major part of 
the day in his company was far more auspicious 
than her refusal to spend a few hours could be 
direful. 

Once or twice, as Jerome glanced ahead, he 
fancied that he descried the dark outline of a 
figure moving stealthily in the shadow of the 
trees which flanked the roadway. He finally dis- 
missed the idea, however, as an illusion, or a trick 
of the moon, just rising like a brimming bowl of 
quicksilver above the silent tree-tops. 

Suddenly, as he was entering the most perilous 
part of the steep slope, which dipped down to the 
river, a dark figure crouching toad-like by the 
roadway, sprang up and struck the horse a sting- 
ing blow across the haunches. It was done so 
silently and speedily, that Jerome, instinctively 
clutching the rein more firmly, caught only a 
hurried, indistinct glimpse of his assailant. The 
next instant the frightened horse was rushing 
madly down the slope. Jerome had unfortunately 
trained him to increase his speed at an unusual 
tightening of the rein; so all hope of checking 
him In that way was rendered useless. Instead, 
Jerome grasped the pommel of the saddle, and, 
clinging desperately, shouted, "Whoa! whoa! 
whoa!" but the terrified animal, borne on by 



30 The Gibdle of the Great 

mighty momentum, could not have stopped, even 
if he had had the disposition to do so. 

Down, down, a swiftly moving silhouette be- 
neath the fantastic glow of the moonlight, shot 
horse and rider, — slipping, sliding, flashing lurid 
sparks of fire. In that fearful plunge there was 
something ghastly, ghostly, intensely terrible. It 
was like the phantom ride of "Tarn o' Shanter," 
or the stampede of wild horses, or the crashing of 
boulders riven by thunder-bolts. 

Near the ferry the road turned sharply around 
an unused stretch of trail, at whose base a 
mighty mass of mingled rock and earth had 
crumbled off into the river. Would the horse 
make that new turn, or would he, thundering 
over the old trail, leap the precipice and plunge 
to awful death on the jagged rocks below? Fear 
of the latter sent a shiver of horror to Jerome's 
soul. He was no coward. But he could not en- 
dure the thought of a death like that. Nearer, 
nearer to the dangerous curve they rushed, 
Jerome's face white, drawn, tense with infinite 
eagerness. Could he possibly swerve the mad 
horse to the left? Under the impulse of the 
thought, he clutched at the rein, but it eluded 
him and went over the horse's head. They were 
in the mouth of the curve now. With a last, 
frantic effort, Jerome shouted and leaned as far 
as possible to the left. Even in the act, he saw 
how hopeless it was. Unable at such great speed 
to make the turn, the horse was rushing down the 
old road. The dull, leaden boom of the river 
sounded in the rider's ears. A white, frothing 
patch flashed up to greet his burning gaze. He 




"They were in the mouth of the 






.^v 



The Girdle of the Great jx 

could almost hear the laughter of demons in the 
swirl of the wild waters. A few yafds — ^he 
shrank from the possibility. 

Once more a desperate thought flashed over 
him. He swiftly sought to kick clear of the stir- 
rups and slide from the horse. That effort, too, 
proved fruitless. For some reason his right foot 
became entangled. Determined to succeed at any 
hazard, ^le ran his hand deep down in his pocket, 
withdrew his knife, opened it with his teeth and 
with a frantic stroke slashed the saddle-gicth., A 
moment it held by a strand; then snapped, sto/^ 



Jerome lost consciousness in a sickecj^ng, ^f^\ 



shot whirl. 






^V' ,.> 






32 The Girdle of the Great 



CHAPTER VI. 

AN URGENT CALL. 

Late in the night there came a hurried, in- 
sistent rapping at Doctor Allen's front door. In 
response to it, the Doctor himself, a squat, side- 
whiskered individual, whose rotund, florid face 
plainly bespoke the Epicurean, appeared. "What 
is it?" he demanded briskly. "Ah, it's Jeffries, 
isn't it?" he added, as a bar of light from the 
lantern played over the visitor's bronzed, bearded 
face. 

"That same. Doc," gasped the man, breathless 
from the excitement and the hurried climb up 
the slope, "I've jest — found Romey Watkins — 
on the old road — lyin' dead-like — ^under his sad- 
dle — with hoss gone — dunno but the boy's done 
fer — come quick. Doc." 

"How'd it happen?" queried the Doctor, un- 
easily, studying the other's face. 

"Dunno — reckin' hit wuz er — runaway — ^good- 
bye, I must go tell the ole man." Jeffries sud- 
denly turned and bounded down the steps. A 
few moments later the Doctor followed him. 

« * ^ 4c 4c ♦ 4t 

Several in the house had overheard this con- 
versation. Gabriel, whose room was no great 
distance away, had crept to his door and listened 



The Girdle of the Great 33 

with rapt attention, a cold glitter in his eyes, his 
ruddy face betraying only too plainly the nature 
of his thoughts. When satisfied that his father 
had gone he stole silently from the house, and, 
approaching a nearby cabin, called softly, "Tim, 
Tim." 

A black head was soon thrust out the narrow 
window. "Who dat?" asked the owner sus 
piciously. "Is dat you, Mister Gabriel ?" he added 
more complacently, sleepily rubbing his eyes. 

"Yes," answered Gabriel, approaching the 
window, "You've done your work well, Tim. 
But if you ever breathe to a living soul that I 
hired you to do it," — he suddenly reached up and 
clutched the negro's collar — "I'll kill you, so help 
me God !" 

"Dat I woan', dat I woan'. Mister Gabriel," fal- 
tered the negro, his eyes big and bright with 
terror; "no, no fer all de gol' in Norf C'aliny." 

"See to it that you don't, then, or you will be 
sorry for it," muttered Gabriel, relaxing his grip. 
"But hold," he continued with a tightening of 
his iron grasp, "did Jerome — did the devil — 
recognize you?" 

"No, sah, I kep' de mask ober ma face." 

"Very good," chuckled Gabriel as he released 
the negro ; "I can easily prove an alibi. But, mind 
you, you're to keep mum as marble. Your 
mammy was in the kitchen and didn't miss you. 
I— only / — ^knew where you were." He gave a 
great sigh of relief, turned sharply on his heel; 
and, as the guilty so often do, sought the scene 
of the runaway and the presence of the victim. 
Here he could linger in the shadow and watch 



34 The Girdle of the Great \ 

the dark deed bear its blanched fruit, gloating 
under the guise of sympathy. 

Meantime Maxine, who had retired early 
against an early rising in the morning when she 
had decided to take her departure, was pacing 
the floor in an agony of suspense and fear. Be- 
ing restless and unable to sleep like her com- 
panion, Marjorie, she, too, had overheard the 
ferryman's fateful words. They had sent a swift 
surge of remorse and sorrow to her heart. She 
bitterly reproached herself for having refused 
Jerome's request to go driving with him. She 
had done it merely to test him. The possibility 
that the man who gave such brilliant promise was 
dead, dying, or hopelessly maimed, overmastered 
and unnerved her. Somehow an invisible bond 
linked their future. She felt in a measure re- 
sponsible for the success or failure of his career. 

Tears suddenly gushed to her eyes like glisten- 
ing jets from a full fountain. "Oh God," she 
moaned, "spare him, spare him." 

"Why, what in the name of all the saints is the 
matter. Max ?" cried Marjorie, raising up in bed. 
"Have you had a nightmare ?" 

"Yes — 2L nightmare — ^ terrible nightmare," 
Maxine faltered, as with heaving bosom and 
throbbing temples, she crept softly back to bed. 
Marjorie was soon asleep again; but there was 
no rest for Maxine. Through the long hours she 
lay wide-eyed and trembling, her heart gripped 
by giant fears. Over and over again she fancied 
she could see the tragedy; and always the face 
of Gabriel Allen peered out of the badcground as 
the face of one welded to evil deeds. 



The Gibdle of the Great 35 

In the rose-red of the dawn, when a wreathing 
wraith-like mist wound over the river-valley, 
Maxine crept unobserved from the sleeping 
house. At the gate she paused a moment. 
Should she go on ? She hung her head and hesi- 
tated, absorbed in thought. Had she not for this 
purpose withheld her speech when the natural 
impulse was to cry out the sad intelligence to 
Marjorie? Yes, fof this — ^that she might steal 
away to him in the early morning and gaze upon 
his poor marred face — she had kept silent. And 
for this she would go. She resolutely flung open 
the gate and hurriedly descended the hill to the 
ferryman's cottage. 

It was a white-faced fluttering little creature, 
vacillating between hope and fear, that greeted 
the tall, grizzled ferryman when he opened the 
cottage door. "Mornin', Miss, morninV' he 
cried cordially, swinging wide the door, "come in 
— ^the house is all tore up, but — " 

"How is Jero — Mr. Watkins?" she broke in, 
with a shuddering gasp. Her heart thundered 
like a trip-hammer in her ears. Dull gleams of 
uncertainty darted beneath the deep blue of her 
eyes. She unconsciously clutched at his sleeve, 
as if she would compel his answer to be favora- 
ble. 

"In er mouty bad way. Miss/* he answered 
with evident sorrow. 

"They took him home 'bout three o'clock. He 
was stiU unconscious. My! you orte> seed the 
ole man's face. He — " 

"Is Mr. Jerome fatally injured?" she inter- 



^6 The Girdle of the Great 

nipted hoarsely, unable longer to stand the strain 
of suspense. 

"Wal, he wuz mouty much bruised an' bloodied 
up. The Doc. couldn't egzackly tell erbout in- 
tamal injoories. I sed the boy wuz unconscious, 
but he kept on callin' Max — Max somethin', I 
dunno what — ^what's the matter, Miss, you look 
sick?" he cried suddenly, catching at Uie girl's 
arm as she swayed slightly to one side. 

"I'm all right now— can you ferry me across 
the river — ^I wish to go at once," she gasped, her 
face white to the lips, but her eyes shining with 
unbending purpose. 

"Yes, when you've rested up er spell — ^an' 
drinked er leetle brandy. I keeps hit fer snake- 
bites," he added, as he led the way to one of the 
front rooms. "I'l be back in er minit," he said, 
indicating a chair. 

Maxine was scarcely seated before he had re- 
appeared with a brimming glass of brandy. 
"Drink some er this," he urged, with rough ten- 
derness. 

Maxine silently obeyed, and soon felt the warm 
blood surging back to her heart. 

After a few moments she announced her readi- 
ness to cross the river in such earnest tones that 
the ferryman acquiesced. 

"Be you er f rien' er the Watkinses, Miss ?" he 
queried when they had entered the flat and were 
pushing off. 

"Yes— of Mr. Jerome Watkins." 

"Wal, you're my frien' then," exclaimed the 
ferryman with a burst of enthusiasm. "Evybody 
what's er frien' ter Romey Watkins is er frien' 



The Girdle of the Great 37 

ter me. I caint somehow never fergit him fer 
puUin' that Bruce er mine out'n this river at the 
resk er his own life. Jod Jeffries aint one ter 
fergit sich things. Poor Romey — I hope an' 
pray he won't make er die uv it." 

Though Maxine's face fully approved his 
crude, heart- felt expression, she made no reply. 
And the ferryman lapsed into silence, giving his 
attention wholly to the management of the flat. 

"What's your name. Miss — ef you'll excuse an' 
ole man fer axin?" he queried when she had 
stepped ashore. 

"Maxine MacDonald." 

"What! the one he wuz callin' fer? No, I 
won't take no pay," he insisted as she removed a 
coin from her purse, "when you're on your way 
ter see — " 

"But you must," she urged, "I can't let you — " 

He cut short all remonstrance by swiftly re- 
versing his course. "The flat'U be ready when- 
ever you want ter cross," he called back. 

Then she gathered her skirts and bravely 
trudged up the half-mile slope to Riverwood. 

At the door of the mansion she stood finally, 
maidenly modesty and a soft, strange glow in 
her blue eyes. Uncertainly master of all. Would 
they think her indelicate? Her cheeks flamed at 
the thought. Would he think her overbold ? She 
shuddered; alas, he might never think again — 
coherently. She raised her little clenched fist to 
rap on the door. A sudden longing to flee seized 
her. She half-turned. A footstep — a, slow, lag- 
ging footstep — arrested her attention. She 
wheeled about to face an old negro who was com- 



38 The Girdle of the Great 

ing up the walk. Dejection was discernible in 
the stoop of his powerful shoulders. Something 
more burdensome than the incubus of years was 
weighing him down. 

''Morning Missy/' he said, doffing his cap 
quickly, "how's Marse Romey?" He awaited her 
answer, cap in hand, the very soul of respect and 
courtesy. 

"That's what I've come to find out, uncle," she 
replied kindly. She turned again to the door, 
giving it a sharp rap. 

"Oh, dat aint Missy 't all," the old negro ex- 
claimed as he drew nearer. "De ole nigger's eye- 
sight am sho'ly gittin' bad — sho'ly pttin' bad. 
Po' lil' Marse Romey," he ran on as if in solilo- 
quy, "all momucked en mud'ud up by dat deb- 
blish boss. De bes' chile ebber bawn on dis rib- 
ber. Dest ez sho' fer heaben ez de purly gates 
hangs on de golden hinges." 

"Is he — ?" But Maxine did not finish the sen- 
tence. The door opened suddenly and she was 
face to face with an angelic-looking little woman 
whose great dark eyes were strikingly suggestive 
of Jerome's. The dark circles beneath them be- 
spoke the struggles of a sleepless night 

"I am Miss MacDonald," Maxine faltered, 
striving hard to restrain the question throbbing 
in her heart till she could couch it in composure. 

"And I am Jerome's mother," said the little 
woman, warmly grasping the girl's extended 
hand. 

"Is Mr. Jerome seriously — fatally injured?" 

The question was out. And a mother's ears 

could no more be deceived by the forced calm- 



The Gibdle of the Great 39 

ness with which it had been uttered than her eyes 
could fail to read in the younger woman's face 
the tell-tale tokens. 

"We hope not," she replied quickly. "Dr. Al- 
len" — she hesitated over the name — "says it will 
be some days before he can fully determine the 
extent of internal injuries." 

Her eyes filled with tears, her voice became 
choked. 

"Missy, oh, Missy," broke in the old negro, 
who had all the while been standing impatiently 
at the foot of the steps, "how'se Marse Romey dis 
momin' ?" 

He shufHed his big feet from side to side in a 
very agony of uneasiness. He hung on her words 
like a prisoner at the bar. 

"Well, his mind's clear, Uncle Sam, but we 
don't know the extent of his injuries. He's 
badly bruised and shaken up." 

"Tank Cord, tank Cord, he's still in de Ian' ov 
de libin'," he ejaculated, "an' I'se gwineter 'rassul 
wid de Lawd ter spare dat chile." 

"Jerome has asked for you — would you see 
him. Miss MacDonald ?" the mother queried half- 
hesitatingly. 

"Yes," Maxine replied almost before she had 
thought. 

The mother led the way across the wide, wains- 
cotted hall, softly opened the door and conducted 
Maxine into a large, old-fashioned room. The 
girl's gaze instantly travelled to a distant corner 
where a gray-haired man sat beside a low arm- 
chair, in which, with an attitude of utter pain, 

half reclined a blanketedi bandaged figure. The 



»* 



40 The Girdle of the Great 

old man arose quickly and came forward, all the 
cordiality and courtesy of the ancient Southern 
gentleman beaming in his face. 

"Why, isn't this Miss MacDonald?" he ex- 
claimed warmly, extending a strong brown hand 
before his wife could introduce them (the colonel 
hated formality). 

"Yes, sir," Maxine gasped. Though trembling 
with eagerness to see the figure screened by the 
colonel's tall form, she was completely won by 
the warmth and heartiness of the old man's man- 
ner. "I've come over to inquire about — Mr. 
Jerome," she added in a lowered tone, her face 
full of colour. 

"Ah, it is kind — ^very kind and thoughtful of 
you," ejaculated the colonel, stepping aside. 
"There," he continued, turning about and dramat- 
ically pointing to the bandaged figure, "there" — 
his gray mustache bristled and his steel-blue eyes 
shot fire — "there is what some inhuman wretch 
has done to my son !" 

And seeing clearly for the first time, Maxine 
beheld above the white bandage a pair of un- 
naturally bright eyes. Only too plainly they be- 
trayed the consuming eagerness and overmaster- 
ing impatience which throttled his heart and 
twitched his sealed lips. 

"You must excuse me," said the colonel with 
a stately bow to Maxine, "I have an engagement 
with one of my friends." 

A moment later the mother, too, found an ex- 
cuse for leaving, and the twain — she who had 
dared so much and he who had snatched his life 
from the jaws of death — were atone. 



h^. 






THE NEW YORK 

PUBLIC LIBRARY 



ASTOR, LENOX AND 
TILDEN FOUNDATIONS 



The Gisdlb of the Great 41 

"Maxine," he said in a strained, hoarse whis- 
per, "Oh, Maxine, I knew you — ^would come — if 
you only knew — " he pulled the bandage still 
further aside — "I said — " 

"Hush," she broke in, coming to his side, "you 
mustn't talk. You mustn't remove the band- 
age. 

"But, Maxime — I want to talk — ^to you — ^I'm 
afraid — I'm done for." 

She tenderly placed a soft white hand on the 
arm of his chair. "You mustn't talk like that," 
she said bravely; "it gives me pain. The South 
needs you; the world waits for you; and I" — 
"Want you to get well," she added, striving to 
conceal by looking away the blush which mounted ' 
her fair face. 

"Four years — four years — ^that's too long *to 
wait— even if — " ,•• • - " 

She silenced him with a wave of protest 
"Listen," she said; "a certain court-beaufy,' to 
test an admirer's bve, once threw her glove 
among lions and bade him recover it. He did so 
at the peril of his life, and rightly threw the 
glove in her face. To test your love" — she made 
a tragic little gesture, and in her beautiful eyes 
shone the light of the Ancient Scholar — ^"I throw 
my heart among the Lions of Knowledge. You 
will thank me for the test. Even though you 
should throw my heart back, as a thing apart 
from your life and unworthy, it will have brought 
you none the less the Girdle of the Great." She 
paused, leaning over him so near that her fra- 
grant breath fell like a benediction on his bruised 
brow. 



42 The Girdle of the Great 

He gazed up at her, a great, yearning tender- 
ness in his dark eyes. ''Oh, Maxine," he gasped. 

But the words died on his lips. The door 
swung suddenly open and Dr. Allen stood before 
theoL 



The Girdle of the Great 43 



CHAPTER VII. 

SOME SURPRISES. 

Dr. Allen had a habit of entering the sick-room 
at unexpected hours, excusing the liberty on the 
plea that he wished to note the real condition of 
his patients before they could disorder their 
pulses. Being something of a hypocrite himself, 
he invariably looked for that element in the lives 
of others. The only redeeming quality about the 
Doctor's hypocrisy (if that vice can be said to 
possess mitigating circimistances) was its cheer- 
fulness. 

An exclamation of surprise rushed to his lips 
when he saw Maxine standing beside Jerome. 
His florid face assumed the hue of an overripe 
peach, but he almost instantly recovered his com- 
posure. "Why, Miss Maxine," he laughed, 
"you've turned trained nurse," and, "by the by,'* 
he ran on, feeling Jerome's pulse, "you've got his 
heart going likety-clip like a scared rabbit." 

She blushed, murmured something, and left 
the room. 

The doctor proceeded with his examination. 
"Doing pretty well, boy," he said, adjusting the 
bandages, "but you mustn't talk much. And you 
must be careful next time about the sort of horses 
you ride," 



44 The Gikkx of the Gbeat 

Jerome essayed to replj. The doctor sflenccd 
him with a gesture. ''No, no, my boy, yoa must 
ke^ quiet — your mind isn't exactly dear — a 
slight concussion — a slight clot on the brain—* 
but youll be all o. k. in a few days if your heart 
don't give you trouble." With that, he was gone, 
leaying Jerome staring at the wall in helpless 



Beyond a few pleasantries the doctor said lit- 
tle to Maxine as they drove back in his dog-cart 
to Rocky Heig^its — a fact for which she was 
profoundly gratefuL Though conscious of no 
impropriety, she was nevertheless aiBBicted with a 
haunting fear lest Jerome should think her want- 
ing in modesty. Yet, she argued to herself, that 
in his present state of mind — or, rather, to be 
more accurate, of heart — it had seemed the only 
course to pursue. Then, if ever, she should 
strengthen him. Why not? He was to be her 
ideal of the New South — her soul's companion. 

The doctor, too, had his reflections as the dog- 
cart bumped down the steep slope to the ferry. 

In early manhood he had indulged dreams of 
great wealth. Money was his God, and he had 
stooped to the lowest level to obtain it. Every 
energy of his virile nature had been consequently 
subserved to that end. He had studied the wiles 
of the charlatan and the ways of the clown. He 
possessed the faculty of making his patients be- 
lieve they were well when they were sick, and 
sick when they were well. His wealthy patients 
had every disease in the medical records (and 
many which were not) while the poor were al* 
ways afflicted with trifles. 



The Girdle of the Great 45 

The doctor also made a specialty of shaving 
notes and lending money on "gilt-edge security. ' 
In the latter way he had gotten the estate of 
Riverwood in his octopus-like clutches, taking a 
cruel advantage of the Colonel's necessity. The 
doctor's immediate reason for desiring the match 
between Gabriel and Maxine was a valuable es- 
tate adjoining Rocky Heights. While this estate 
was at present in litigation, it remained in the 
possession of Mr. Hector MacDonald, the presi- 
dent of the Ansonville Bank. Maxine was Mr. 
MacDonald's natural heir. Before the suit had 
begun the doctor had vainly tried to purchase this 
estate for a secret purpose : he had learned from 
a prospector, whom he had attended in extremis, 
that tlie ''Brandon Place'' contained valuable de- 
posits of gold-bearing ore. 

The incident of the morning had therefore 
grated somewhat harshly on his gold nerves. 

When they reached the ferry, the doctor had 
apparently regained his usual cheerfulness. He 
gave a merry, winding blast with the signal- 
horn. In a little while the ferry-flat put out 
from the opposite shore. The ferryman was not 
the one who had conveyed Maxine across in the 
morning. He was a tall, sunburnt youth of per- 
haps twenty. His face bespoke rural simplicity 
and rugged honesty, with a touch of native 
strength in the lines about the mouth and chin. 
He saluted his passengers with an awkward bow 
as he drew near shore. He was evidently little 
used to the society of women. 

"Good morning, Bruce," said the doctor, driv- 
ing onto the flat. "Fine day." 



46 The Girdle of the Great 



it 






'Yes, sir," responded the youth. 

'Any news," continued the doctor, warily. 

"Nuthin* in pertickler, sir. How's Romcy 
Watkins?" 

'Oh, he's doing fairly well." 

Towerful glad ter hear it," said the youth. 
"It's quare, though, how thet hoss cum ter run 
erway with him. Must er bin skeered bad by — " 

The doctor cut him short by asking about the 
autumn horse-fair to be held at Ansonville. But 
Maxine's suspicions were aroused and she sus- 
pected that the doctor knew more than he cared 
to admit. 

As they were passing the spot where the old 
road turned into the new, Maxine ventured a 
question about the runaway, but the doctor 
adroitly conveyed the conversation into another 
channel. 

When they arrived at Rocky Heights, Maxine 
was instantly borne off by Marjorie to a shel- 
tered part of the veranda and assailed with a 
fusillade of questions. "Did he say an)rthing 
about me?" she queried, after asking the extent 
of Jerome's injury. 

"Well, no, I believe not," Maxine stammered. 

"Not a word?" 

"No." 

"Oh, well, I think I can understand it then, 
Max," Marjorie said, with a poor little attempt 
at pleasantry. "You didn't give him the chance 
to say it." 

"Indeed I did— I—" 

The conversation was ended by the breakfast- 
bell. 



The Girdle of the Great 47 

The meal passed silently — ^almost solemnly — 
save for an occasional witticism by the doctor, 
who feared lest his guest should become offended 
at any marked discourtesy on his part. 

Gabriel was too chagrined at the affair of the 
morning to offer any remarks at all. His face 
betrayed only too plainly the gloomy nature of 
his thoughts. He had determined, however, to 
make a desperate effort to regain his standing 
with Maxine as he drove with her to Ansonville. 
Accordingly, he hastened the preparations for de- 
parture. Unhappily for him, he could not hasten 
Maxine. It was fully nine o'clock when they 
drove through the big gate. The train left An- 
sonville at ten-fifteen. Gabriel would, therefore, 
have less time than he had anticipated to present 
his case. He resolved to make the most of it. 

When they were well out of sight in a monot- 
onous stretch of pine forest, he went at once to 
the heart of the matter — or the matter of the 
heart. 

"Maxine," he said, tenderly, dropping the 
lines over his knee, "I love you. Ever since I 
saw you that first morning years ago at Anson- 
ville, I have loved you passionately — with every 
power of my nature. Say that it is returned, and 
I will be the happiest man on earth." He paused, 
gazed at her half -helplessly, yet with a certain 
cruel strength in the set of his strong jaw. 
"Speak, Maxine; say that you love me," he ran 
on, piqued at the silence which had greeted his 
passionate outburst. "Do not tell me that my 
case is hopeless — " — his voice became husky and 
hard — ^"that you tove Jerome Watkins." 



The Gmxx or the Qkeat 

Marine started His last words had strode 
like a thunderbolt The vision of a mnawaj 
horse and helpless rider surged op before her. 
A wave of protecting tenderness sulmerged her 
heart. 

^Suppose I should tell you. that I loved Jerome 
Watldns?^ she said, unwisely. ''Suppose I 
should tell yoa that I could never love anyone 
else? Suppose — ^" 

'T would kill him!" he cried, his face purple 
with passion. 

Fear gripped her heart. ''Well, I do not k)ve 
him,'' she gasped, with a half-strangling intake 
of breath, "but I do admire and respect him. 
He would not strike a foe in the dark.'' 

It was a chance shot, but it had struck home. 
The blood fled from Gabriel's face, leaving it 
white to the lips. His cruel jaw sagged like that 
of a dog caught at the throat of a struggling 
sheep. 

"What — ^what — an oddity you are," he said at 
last. He jeiiced up the lines, gave the horse a 
cruel cut and the buggy bowled along the level, 
yellow road. 

Finally recovering his composure, he said : "In 
spite of what you say, I must still believe you 
love Jerome Watkins. Your actions prove it 
(and 'actions speak louder than words!), but I 
want you to know before you choose him that he 
is entirely in my power. I hold a mortgage on 
the estate of Riverwood. This mortgage can be 
foreclosed. Coiontl Watkins will never be able 
to raise it. Jerome Watkins is no more than the 
hireling son of a hireling." 



\ 



Th£ Girdle of thb Guat 49 

"He's the gentleman son of a gentleman/* 
rushed to Maxine's lips, but this time prudence 
prevailed, and the retort remained unspoken. 

"I'll tell you, Maxine," he ran on, "I'll soon be 
the richest man in the county in my own right. 
And you can't afford to marry a poor man. 
How's that old saying about When Poverty 
comes in the door, Love flies put the window'?" 

"Please don't mention that subject to me 
again," she said coldly. "I assure you it is most 
unpleasant." She gazed out into the forest as if 
supremely indifferent to his presence. 

"I'll not mention it again, but you shall hear 
of it again," he said harshly, giving the horse an- 
other cruel cut. 

They fairly dashed over a comparatively level 
two-mile stretch, finally entering the ragged out- 
skirts of the village. 

Suddenly a cloud of dust was seen rolling to- 
ward them. Nearer and nearer it swept along 
the lane-like road till the outline of a horse and 
buggy was discernible through the swirling red 
mist. Soon the driver proved to be Mr. Hector 
MacDonald, the banker. 

"Lucky !" he cried, checking his horse, "twenty 
minutes to catch the train" — ^he held up a flutter- 
ing bit of yellow paper — "and this says come at 



once." 



He leaped out, helped Maxine to a seat in his 
buggy and, with a bow to Gabriel, turned the 
horse and dashed back toward the village. 

Maxine opened the crumpled telegram which 
the banker had thrust in her hands. It read : 



5© 



The Girdle of the Gseat 






''Mother seriously ill, coine at once. 

(Sign^) Ambrose Paywe.* 

\lzay times that day as the train whirled 
South, despite her uneasiness about her mother, 
Maxine recalled Gabriel Allen's words — ^"I shall 
not speak of it again, but you shall hear of it 



The Girdle of the Great 51 



CHAPTER VIII. 

THE KEEN EDGE OF DISAPPOINTMENT. 

^ September came. Gabriel Allen had gone to 
Forest G>llege, the doctor having strongly in- 
sisted that he use the scholarship which the win- 
ning of the medal had placed in his hands. 
Rodblph Westcott, Winston Ingraham, Joe Mac- 
Cauley and other neighborhood boys had also 
left for various institutions of learning. Poor 
Jerome, whose thirst for knowledge was more 
intense than that of any of his associates, was 
constrained by force of circumstances to remain 
on the plantation. 

Dr. Allen had grudgingly given the Colonel 
till the last of November to pay off the mortgage ; 
and it was necessary for every energy of the 
entire family to be directed toward that end. 
Jerome fully recognized this fact; and, having 
recovered from his wounds, manfully set about 
the task, unsparingly lending his own hand to 
the coarsest and most menial toil. 

Owing to an exodus of negroes to the turpen- 
tine orchards of Georgia, and to the Mississippi 
bottoms, labor was scarce and high-priced that 
season. Jerome was consequently often forced 
to do double work. Old Sam was enfeebled by 



Sa The Gisdle of the Great 

age^ and his two sons, Bill and Ben, showed lit- 
tle or no disposition to work. The Colonel, dis- 
abled by a war-woimd, could scarcely be taken 
into account. Jerome's two yoimger brothers, 
however, contributed worthily to tiie undertak- 
ing. Yet the outcome of their combined efforts 
seemed anything but promising. By some strange 
and unaccountable decree of fate, the boll- 
weevil ran riot among the cotton, and the bud- 
worm among the com. But the brave hearts of 
old Riverwood never faltered. Every economy 
was practiced. Every closed fountain of indus- 
try was reopened : new ones were created. 

One day in the latter part of October Jerome 
stood with Old Sam in the cornfield along the 
river bottom. They had just finished pulling the 
last ripe ears from the bending stalks, and piled 
the precious treasure in yellow heaps between 
the ridges. The task had been a pre-eminently 
disappointing one. Many an ear was small and 
shriveled; not a few stalks were barren. The 
bud-worms had done their damage successfully. 

"It seems like everything is against us," ob- 
served Jerome, gazing sadly down the long rows 
where the soft hues of eventide lay like a wine- 
colored mist 

"Doan gib up, Marse Romey," comforted the 
old negro. "Doan yer 'member how de Profit 
Kerligy wuz s'ported by de ravens. Yassir, dc 
Lawd sho'ly tuck an' lif up Kerligy. An* he's 
gfwine ter Uf you up an' tote you ober dis trouble 
an' tribulashun." He paused and piously turned 
the whites of his eyes heavenward. "Dere Jey 
is I Dere dey is! Marse Romey," he cried ex- 



X 



The Girdle of the Great 53 

citedly, pointing to a flock of crows which were 
even at that moment wheeling raucously over- 
head. 

"Yes, the same black rascals that added to our 
miseries by pulling up the com in the early 
spring," observed Jerome, with a bitter smile. 

"Scusen me, Marse Romey," exclaimed the 
negro apologetically, "I wuz so tuk up wid de 
Scripter dat I clar los' my senses. I didn't mean 
ter make er mawk uv you, dat I didn't" 

In a little while the two turned from the field 
and set their faces toward the mansion. On the 
way Jerome made a remark, partly to himself, 
about having to give up all his prospects of en- 
tering college. 

"What yer reckin, Marse Romey," broke in the 
old negro, "dat Bill uv mine is er finkin' er 'bout 
gwine off ter school. Yassir, dat nigger's dun 
got his haid sot on edicashun. He wants ter 
smoke de big segyar an' wear red kervats lak 
dem city gemmen. Bill sez he's gwine ter go 
whar dey's fotched up ter be lawyers, docters, an* 
prescribin' elders. But I doan lak dis edicatin' 
uv niggers." 

Jerome made no comment, though he recog- 
nized in what the negro had said a startling truth 
—that a mere pensioner on a patron's bounty was 
able to obtain for himself an opportunity hope- 
lessly beyond the patron's own son. 

Jerome was stunned and sickened by the very 
irony of such a fate. The fact that an ignorant, 
shiftless negro, who had set aside the law of his 
nature with a spurt of industry, could grasp with 
indifferent ease the goal of opportunity seemed 



54 The Girdle of the Great 

strangely incongruous. Perhaps Jerome would 
have grown bitter against his father for involv- 
ing the estate had he not remembered that the 
long illness of the mother had been largely re- 
sponsible for it. The doctor's bill had been 
enormous. 

A hundred thoughts whirled through the 
young man's mind as he walked on in silence, 
the faithful old negro trudging like a patient ox 
at his side. Above every other thought rose this : 
"I shall not return to the earth, body and soul. 
My dreams of education shall not perish. I shall 
yet grasp the Girdle of The Great." 



The Girdle of the Great 55 



CHAPTER IX. 

THE IRONY OF FATE. 

It was the 29th of November. A dismal day 
had been followed by a dark night. At intervals 
the wind, sweeping out of the North, howled like 
a hungry wolf around the mansion of Rocky 
Heights. 

In a comer of the basement, fitted up as a sort 
of laboratory, an animated discussion was in 
progress. Dr. Allen stood behind a little counter 
with a half-filled test-tube in his hand. Gabriel, 
who had tarried at Rocky Heights since Thanks- 
giving, leaned on the counter in an attitude of 
intense eagerness, which one unacquainted with 
him might have attributed to interest in the ex- 
periment. This, however, was far from being 
the case, as the young man's language indicated. 

"They'll never raise it father — crop's a com- 
plete failure," he chuckled, with a note of grim 
humor in his tone. "Romey Watkins's face looks 
long as a yard-stick. Just as well foreclose." 

The doctor was silent a moment, in which he 
critically examined the solution in the test-tube. 
Finally he said, with a self-satisfied twinkle in his 
small gray eyes: "A cornered rat, my son; a 
cornered rat may escape ; a caged rat never. The 



56 The Girdle of the Great 

Colonel is a caged rat. We may play with him. 
Let us give him some days of grace — ^to gnaw at 
his cage and g^ash his teeth. ' 

"And, by the by," he continued, shakinp^ the 
solution, "that ore from the Brandon place is the 
real stuff. See how Aqua Regia dissolves it!" 

"I don't like your way of waiting," grumbled 
Gabriel. Rats that g^aw sometimes g^aw out. 
I'm for slaying the miserable beggars. Kill the 
rats while you've got 'em, or they'll spoil your 
granary. The little foxes — ^the little rats — ?" 

"Stop!" cried the doctor, "you're too fast 
"Have you ever considered that old Watkins 
could indict you for secret assault— or at least, 
for a conspiracy to that effect? You thought I 
knew nothing, but ha ! you are mistaken. I knew 
you were up to no angel's work when I saw you 
hobnobbing with that wooly-headed Tim on the 
day of the picnic. You know what followed as 
well as I do. I made that Watkins boy think all 
that stuff about someone striking his horse was 
an optical delusion; but his mind will finally get 
clear on that point. It is always the case." 

Gabriel's face lost much of its ruddy hue; a 
purplish tinge of surprise and consternation mot- 
tled his round cheeks. 

"Spyin' on me, were you?" he gasped, chok- 
ing with anger. "No confidence in your own 
son. Well, I don't wonder, but — " 

"Enough, sir," snapped the doctor, his small 
eyes blazing, his voice quivering with rage. "If 
you meddle with my plans, I'll disinherit you in 
two minutes ! No uppish, smart-alecky sons for 



The Girdle of the Great 57 

Seeing that his father was implacable on that 
score, Gabriel instantly sought another point of 
attack — one which he knew lay near and dear to 
his father's heart. "Oh, well, I didn't mean to 
hurt your feelings, father," he said apologetically, 
"but it seemed to me the only way to the Brandon 
place." 

"To the Brandon place," echoed the doctor, a 
perceptible softening in his voice. 

"Yes. As long as Romey Watkins makes a 
show of being rich, I don't stand any chance with 
Maxine, that's all. There's nothing that those 
MacDonalds won't do for money. Turn the Wat- 
kinses out and the marriage between Maxine and 
myself will seem to Mr. MacDonald a logical 
conclusion." Gabriel paused, resting both elbows 
on the flimsy counter, his cold blue eyes glinting 
like polished steel balls in the guttering candle- 
glow. He could read his triumph in his father's 
face. He had touched the main artery of avarice 
— the heart would respond to that. 

The doctor replaced the test-tube in the re- 
ceptacle, nervously fingered his eye-glass, then 
replied: "I'm impressed by what you say, my 
son. You've got a good eye to business. But 
won't the cry of persecution soften the girl's 
heart toward Jerome Watkins and harden it to- 
wards you ?" 

"Women are a bundle of nerves tied together 
with a string of sentiment. Snap that string of 
sentiment and you've got hysteria. I'd rather 
ride fox-hunting on a blind mule than to try to 
reason with a hysterical woman." 

'The MacDonalds have a gold-cure for that 



58 The Girdle of the Great 

disease," said Gabriel dryly. "It's in the blood, 
and I venture that Maxine has her share of it." 

"Well, I'll give Watkins notice of the fore- 
closure to-morrow," snapped the doctor, striving 
to conceal his admiration of his son's shrewdness. 
"You may have your way this time, but, mind 
you, if you fail, it's your last chance. It seems 
right hard," he continued, as a feeble ray of pity 
struggled up out of his narrow soul, "right hard 
to turn a man out of doors in winter — " 

"Oh, don't do it, father," came a pleading voice 
whose owner burst through the door, and, hurry- 
ing behind the counter, placed a soft, restraining 
hand upon the doctor's arm. "Oh, please don't, 
father — it would be too cruel for anything." Her 
large, limpid blue eyes beamed up at him be- 
seechingly. 

The doctor often said Marjorie was his good 
angel, though he should have been ashamed to 
confess that he seldom followed her guidance. 

"Go on, Sis, go on. Sis," said Gabriel, almost 
harshly. This is men's business. You know 
nothing about it." 

"I would be ashamed to confess it if I did," 
she retorted, "trying to persuade father to turn 
Colonel Watkins out of doors." 

"Tut, tut, little daughter," interrupted the doc- 
tor, smoothing her soft hair, "it's just a matter of 
business — something you don't understand. Run 
along and see after your housekeeping." 

"But, father, will you promise not to — " 

"Oh, yes, little girl," he replied, stooping to 
kiss her, "run along now. Ah, that's a good 
girL 



9f 



The Girdle op the Great 59 

"Don't forget your promise, father," she called 
back as she glided through the door. 

The doctor made no reply. He meant to profit 
by the technicality. He had really made no 
promise. Gabriel's reference to the Brandon 
Place had impressed him more forcibly than he 
cared to confess. 

As for Marjorie, she ascended to her room 
with strong fear surging in her soul. She knew 
only too well her father's master weakness. In 
fancy, she could see Colonel Watkins turning his 
back forever on his ancestral halls, infinite 
despair and sorrow written on his wrinkled brow. 
She could see the mother and tne little brothers. 
She could see Jerome, a strange stoop in his 
strong shoulders; something almost sinister in 
his dark face. And then he staggered out into 
the cold and cheerless world. But Marjorie saw 
more as she gazed in the glowing grate. 

She saw a woman step out of the shadows and 
place her hand in Jerome's hand ; and that woman 
was not Marjorie herself. A fierce pang of 
jealousy smote the girl's heart. She, too, would 
willingly go with him into homeless poverty and 
drink with him the deepest dregs of his bitter 
cup. But that was not for her. It was not for 
her to watch with him in his Gethsemane. It was 
not for her to wipe the sweat of blood from his 
brow. No, the greatest barrier of the ages had 
decreed that. Unrequited love may climb the 
mountain; but it cannot descend into the valley 
of the shadow. Only love returned measure for 
measure can do that. 

At length Marjorie arose and paced the floor, 



6o The Girdle of the Great 

her hands clasped to her throbbing bosom, her 
white face bespeaking the intensity of the strug- 
gle. She was giving up all her dreams. One by 
one, like uncaged birds, they were flying from 
her. No longer would their sweet warblings 
charm her fancy. Poor little prisoners of hope, 
they were being unfettered only to leave her in 
heavier thrall — ^the thrall of despair. 

She sank into the chair beside her writing- 
desk, and taking pen and paper, wrote a note 
into which she inscribed, as it were, her very 
heart's blood. Sealing it quickly she thrust the 
envelope in her bosom and drooped her fair head 
upon her folded arms. 

The red glow in the grate sank to a dull, life- 
less gray. The solitary lamp cast fantastic 
shadows on the wall. Moaning and madness 
were in the wind as it leaped through the trees 
and clutched convulsively at the shutters of her 
little window. But neither gloom, nor ghost of 
shadow, nor the wild wind could rob the woman 
of her triumph. 



The Gihdle of the Great 6i 



CHAPTER X. 

THE WHITE VISITOR. 

Conspicuous for its antique elegance and beauty 
in the historic old City of New Orleans was 
Clairbourne Hall, the ancestral seat of the Mac- 
Donalds. Set well back amid its moss-hung trees 
and luxuriant shrubbery, surrounded by Moorish 
fountains and approached by glistening shell- 
stone walks, it was typical of the two great na- 
tions, whose tides had ebbed and flowed and 
ebbed to flow no more in the Crescent City. The 
first MacDonald, who had emigrated from Scot- 
land and made his fortune in cotton, had pur- 
chased the estate from a Frenchman, who in turn 
had received it from a Spaniard. 

Of the MacDonalds only one male representa- 
tive — Mr. Hector MacDonald, the president of 
the Bank of Ansonville — ^now remained. He had 
reluctantly left the seat of his ancient patrimony 
on account of a persistent malarial affection. 
Shortly after his departure, his brother Hugh 
had died, leaving a wife and one child — Maxine. 

Being, as has been indicated, of a naturally 
studious disposition, Maxine had no sooner 
learned to read than she began eagerly to devour 
the knowledge contained in a choice old library, 



62 The Girdle of the Great 

many of whose volumes had come down as an 
heirloom from one of her forebears, who had 
been a professor in the University of Edinburgh. 
These volumes, though held in less esteem than 
the tall ledgers of the MacDonalds, had been suf- 
fered to remain to preserve the house from 
sacrilege. 

It was at a female school in New Orleans that 
Maxine had met and learned to love Marjorie 
Allen; and it was through Mr. Hector Mac- 
Donald that Dr. Allen had learned of the institu- 
tion to which he had ultimately sent his daughter. 

Strangely enough, Maxine was thinking of 
Marjorie on this bright morning in December 
when a servant entered the room with a letter 
which bore that young lady's unmistakable in- 
scription. Maxine was seated in her mother's 
room. The invalid, who had somewhat rallied 
from a recent attack, raised her head wearily as 
the servant drew near. "What is it? I'm not 
going to take it," she said querulously. 

"Oh, it's only a letter for me — ^just a foolish 
love letter from dear old Marjorie. "Why, I'll 
read it to you, mamma," Maxine hastened to re- 
ply. 

Maxine began to read. As she proceeded the 
color fied from her face, leaving it almost as 
white as the sheet which she held to her burning 
eyes. She stopped suddenly and thrust the 
crumpled page in her bosom. She expected her 
mother to express some surprise at this. A 
glance at the invalid's face showed her that the 
opiate which the doctor had recently administered 
was beginning to take effect 



The Girdle of the Great 63 

'Did you say it was a — a — letter Maxy?" the 
invalid queried in a dreamy, far-off tone. 

"Yes, a letter, mamma," Maxine breathed 
softly as she bent over and pressed a warm kiss 
to the invalid's brow. "A letter that only an 
angel could have written." 

Then Maxine, tucking the cover more closely 
about the sleeper, swiftly sought her own cham- 
ber. Arrived there, she threw herself upon her 
bed, buried her face in the pillows and wept bit- 
terly. What could she do ? She was almost alone 
in the world. Her mother, the one to whom she 
could most naturally take her trouble, was prac- 
tically in the borderland between life and death. 
She knew her uncle too well to appeal to him. 
He could be as pitiless as he was pleasant where 
money was concerned. It was true she had 
money in her own right, but she could scarcely 
run the gauntlet of her uncle's guardianship to 
obtain relief for a bankrupt planter. And even 
if she could. Colonel Watkins and Jerome would 
doubtless refuse to accept it. 

Jerome's proud, sensitive nature would recoil 
from such humiliation. He would hate her for 
it. He would despise an education purchased by 
patronage. And she would despise him if he ac- 
cepted it. Her knight must bear his own cross, 
wear his own crown (of thorns if need be), 
gjasp his own girdle. What manhood could be 
developed by munificence? What nobility could 
spring from noblesse oblige? 

Over against these thoughts, like a pointed ice*- 
berg against an arctic sl^, rose the cold, hard 
fact that Dr. Allen was about to foreclose a 



64 The Gisdle of the Great 

mortgage on Riverwood. Though she might not 
understand the legal terms and technicalities, she 
knew only too well that this boded no good to 
Jerome. Turned from his home into the cold of 
winter — ^a stranger in the hbuse of his father — 
what foothold could he gain to re-establish him- 
self? Gabriel Allen would glory in the down- 
fall. It would be a honeyed wafer to his shriv- 
eled soul. Maxine shivered as these thoughts 
coursed through her mind. She was caught be- 
tween the upper and nether millstones. To turn 
either way was to be crushed. But suddenly as 
she groped in the oppressive darkness a light of 
possibility burst upon her. Why not put the mat- 
ter in another's hands? Almost upon the heels 
of this idea, she recalled an old friend of her 
father's whom she could trust implicitly. He 
lived in New York City. She would write him 
the particulars as nearly as possible, placing her 
case in his hands. 

In the strength of this resolution, she rose 
from her bed, went to her writing-desk, and, 
seizing pen and paper, wrote like one inspired : 

"My Dear Mr. Graves : Perhaps you will be 
surprised to receive this letter, and even more 
surprised when you read its contents. I am 
aware that I'm about to ask of you an unusual 
favor — so unusual, indeed, that I shall ask it 
only on the basis of your long and honored in- 
timacy with my dear father. 

"To come at once to the gist of the matter, I 
wi?h you to prevent the foreclosure of a mort- 
gage held by a certain Doctor Allen on the es- 



The Girdle of the Great 65 

tate of Riverwood, on the Pee Dee River, near 
Ansonville, N. C. My reason for this you shall 
know at some future time. I will be personally 
responsible for the amount expended. Please at- 
tend to this matter at once, as the mortgage is to 
be foreclosed as soon as the legal time of notifi- 
cation has expired. And last of all, my dear Mr. 
Graves, may I not ask that my name shall not 
appear in the matter at all ? 

"With sincere esteem, I beg to subscribe my- 
self, 

"Your faithful friend, 
"Maxine MacDonald/' 

She glanced over the letter quickly, folded, 
sealed it in a plain white envelope and wrote the 
address. 

"Ah, Marjorie," she murmured, picking up the 
letter which Marjorie had written and turning it 
over as tenderly as though it were a wounded 
bird, "this cost you a bitter sacrifice — ^mine only 
a bitter struggle. I envy you — ^you have paid 
more than I can pay — ^you are more worthy of 
his love than I am worthy — ^and yet — " 

The door of her room swung open and a 
trained nurse, who had been recently engaged, 
looked in, an expression of tender sympathy in 
her gentle eyes. 

Maxine sprang to her feet, reading the mes- 
sage at a glance. "Has anything happened ?" she 
gasped, her lips trembling with suspense, a 
quaver of fear in her smothered tone. 

"You must bear up bravely, my child," said 
the nurse, approaching and placing her strong. 



66 The Girdle of the Great 

S3mipathetic arm about Maxine's waist. "Your 
mother has just taken a change for the worst, 
and is sinking; rapidly. G>me with me." She 
bore the girl half-fainting to the room where the 
mother lay gasping out her life. With a wild 
cry Maxine sank to her knees beside the couch 
and pressed her pale lips to the nerveless hands. 
And there she clung, her slight form convulsed 
with great heartbroken sobs till the kindly old 
doctor, who had lost his brave fight with death, 
gently led her away. 

"It is bur poor human heritage," my daughter, 
he said in a soothing fatherly tone as he smoothed 
her fair hair, "and none can refuse to accept it. 
But the Great Physician has made it golden with 
the glory of his resurrection. He has broken the 
shadows with bright beams of hope. He will be 
with you to-day, and it shall be well with you." 

Thus did the wise old physician, who had 
learned to prescribe for the physical as well as 
for the spiritual aiknents of his patients, prepare 
Maxine — if anyone is ever prepared — for the 
final ordeal. 

The letter which was to save Riverwood lay 
forgotten in Maxine's room; and time was 
precious. 



The Girdle of the Great tfj 



CHAPTER XI. 

AN APPEAL TO THE PRIMITIVE. 

The 6th of December was a dark day at River- 
wood, for quite another reason besides the failure 
of the sun to penetrate a thick layer of steel gray 
clouds. The Colonel had only the night before 
returned from Ansonville, where he had seen, 
conspicuously posted in the court house, a flaring 
notice of the sale of Riverwood. The avaricious 
little doctor had been as careful to comply with 
legal requirements as he had been scrupulous to 
avoid an encounter with the Colonel. 

On his return to Riverwood, the Colonel had 
hiformed his family of the disagreeable fact 
which they had long anticipated with nameless 
dread. The mother and the younger boys re- 
ceived the information tearfully, Jerome in stolid 
silence. He had drunk the cup of disappoint- 
ment so often recently that he accepted its bitter- 
ness without a grimace. Nevertheless, the cir- 
cles beneath his eyes, as he sat with the others 
at breakfast next morning, betrayed that, in com- 
mon with his parent, he had spent a sleepless 
night. 

The meal passed in almost unbroken silence. 
Yet the influence of the information, which wjas — 
information only in its startling reality, ^^ -^ 

'»3 ^o nil 

£- A at ® ^ 



68 The Girdle of the Great 

clearly traceable on the features of the diners. 
Colonel Watkins paused more than once to pull 
nervously at his short moustache, and to contem- 
plate his coffee-cup, while the mother wiped bit- 
ter tears from her dark eyes. Jerome ate his 
breakfast with characteristic calmness. His face 
was hard — almost cynical. What mattered it to 
him if he were crushed down? The world was 
wide and great — and he was young. He would 
yet win out in life's strenuous struggle. The 
steel in his character rang defiance to defeat. 
But his parents — ^they whose years were fast flee- 
ing through the gaping gates of life — ^when he 
thought of them, his face softened to a sym- 
pathetic glow. That sorrow should come to them 
in the days which by right of restitution should 
be sweet as the chime of twilight bells, peaceful 
as a placid rivulet red with the wine of the after- 
glow, well nigh broke his heart. How could he 
know the pangs which pierced them at the 
thought of giving up the old nest into which the 
years had woven so many golden strands of 
precious memory! How could he know the 
pangs of the ancient oak uprooted from its native 
soil — the soil which had given it blood and 
brawn — ^to be transplanted in alien place ! Jerome 
recognized his limit, and was silent. Some day 
he might know these things, but not now. 

"I went to see Mr. MacDonald to borrow the 
money from him. He had been called to New 
Orleans by the death of his sister-in-law," said 
the Colonel at length. 

Jerome started. Maxine's mother was dead. 
A throb of warm sympathy for the girl in her 



\ 



The Girdle of the Great 69 

grief leaped out of his heart. Like a wireless 
telegram it flashed out and out through the long 
leagues; and mayhap her shadowed heart read 
its message in warm waves of light. For who 
can say that there is not a strange, silent telpher- 
age between heart and heart? 

"Do you really think you could get the money 
from Mr. MacDonald?" asked Mrs. Watkins, 
anxiously. "He's said to be a hard man about 
money matters." 

"There's little doubt of it. The estate is suf- 
ficient security for more than the amount of the 
mortgage. Td rather be in MacDonald's hands, 
even if he is a little close, than to be in the 
mouth of that shark — ^that Shy lock with his can- 
nibalistic craving for a pound of flesh." The 
Colonel pushed off his chair, and sat gazing medi- 
tatively into space, a troubled expression in his 
blue eyes. 

"And even if I should fail in that," he con- 
tinued, after thoughtful silence, "there will be 
money enough left from the sale of the estate to 
buy a small farm." 

The chivalrous old Colonel had spoken with- 
out due regard. He was so accustomed to honor 
that he never looked for duplicity in the lives of 
his fellows. He was so familiar with the knights 
of the Old South that he forgot the knaves of the 
New. It never occurred to him, for instance, 
that Dr. Allen might in some shrewd way so 
manage the sale of the estate as to leave no bal- 
ance. 

Jerome, however, was less sanguine. ''Sup- 



70 The Girdle of the Great 

pose there should be no balance, father?" he sug- 
gested. 

"Why, what do you mean, my son?" 

"That Doctor Allen might arrange to buy the 
estate at the price of the mortgage — " 

"Impossible," interrupted the Colonel, "that 
would be conspiracy to defraud." 

Jerome had too much respect for his father to 
enter into a controversy with him, so he let the 
matter drop. But he strongly suspected that Dr. 
Allen and Mr. MacDonald were, in many mat- 
ters, "hand-in-glove." 

They had all risen from the breakfast table 
and were standing about the fire, as was their 
custom, when old Sam entered, announcing the 
presence of Dr. Allen on the veranda. A dark 
frown clouded the Qjlonel's brow ; he bit his lip 
fiercely. He was tempted to order the Doctor 
from his premises. But sense of hospitality as- 
serted itself. The Colonel was, first of all, a 
gentleman — z gentleman of the old regime — and 
he could not be discourteous in his own house, 
even to an enemy. He had never expressed con- 
tempt for the meanest of his guests. Moreover, 
the Doctor had been his family physician, and 
whatever the Colonel's present attitude might be, 
he was not ungrateful for former favors. He 
resolved, therefore, to be respectful, if frigidly 
formal. 

"Momin', sir, come in to the fire," he said with 
stately dignity, as he opened the hall door and 
^ized down upon the sturdy form of the little 
Doctor. 

"No, thank you," the Doctor replied. "I re- 



\ 



The Girdle of the Great 71 

fused the servant's invitation. I just stopped 
by a minute on business — about the — er — mort- 
gage. I would like if possible to leave you in 
possession of Riverwood." The Doctor drew 
nearer to the Colonel and continued in a lowered 
tone: "I've just learned this morning that you 
have a claim on the Brandon place — a claim 
which antedates the mortgage held by Mr. Mac- 
Donald. Is it true ?" 

"It is," replied the Colonel, laconically. 

"Then if you'll make it over to me, you may 
continue in possession of Riverwood,** said the 
Doctor obsequiously. "I'm very anxious to have 
the Brandon place because it adjoins my prop- 
erty." 

"You do not know that the title to the estate is 
involved? You are not informed of legal techni- 
calities, which, however, much we may regret 
them, prevent either Mr. MacDonald or myself 
from obtaining full possession." 

The Colonel's keen blue eyes darted through 
the little Doctor. 

The Doctor gfrew red in the face till he seemed 
on the verge of apoplexy. "I assure you, sir, 
that I did not know it," he stammered, giving one 
of his side- whiskers a vigorous twist. "I only 
thought to relieve you of your distress." 

"Riverwood is indeed a distressful possession," 
observed the Colonel, deliberately knocking over 
the Doctor's straw manof studied sympathy; "so 
much so, indeed, that it is to be exposed for sale 
at public auction." 

"Well, business is business," said the Doctor 
impatiently. 



72 The Girdle of the Great 

"And rascality is rascality," thundered the 
G)lonel, his eyes blazing, his lips quivering with 
rage. 

"What do you mean, sir?" retorted the Doctor. 

"Precisely what I say," snapped the Colonel. 

"You're grossly misjudging me, sir," inter- 
posed the IDoctor. "It has always been my pur- 
pose to do the square thing. I meant to retain 
you as a tenant, but — " 

That was too much for the man whose aristo- 
cratic forebears had held, as barons hold, the 
fertile acres of Riverwood. With a movement 
marvelously swift for one of his age the Colonel's 
long arm shot out, and striking the Doctor 
squarely between the eyes, sent him sprawling 
backward to the bottom of the steps. 

"Thus I deal with gamesters!" cried the 
Colonel, white with rage. "Thus I deal with 
those who dare to gamble with my honor !" 

The Doctor speedily scrambled to his feet with 
a pistol in his hand. "Coward !" he gasped, cock- 
ing the weapon and drawing it on a level with 
the Colonel's heart. "Prepare to die !" 

"I have looked death in the face before to-day 
and have not faltered; I'm always prepared to 
die," was the cool retort. The Colonel folded his 
arms across his breast and gazed unflinchingly 
into the Doctor's shifty eyes. Something in Sie 
fine hauteur of the princely figure, or the splen- 
did scorn of the noble features, strangely awed 
the Doctor. 

Determined, however, if possible, to frighten 
the Cobnel, he repeated die requirement^ ac* 




The Girdle of the Great 73 

centuating it by drawing still nearer with the 
pistol held unswervingly to its course. 

"Prepare to die!" he repeated, but quick as a 
flash the Colonel kicked the weapon from his 
hand, and, springing down the steps, closed with 
him in a desperate struggle. 

A moment later the door opened behind them 
and Jerome rushed on the scene. Almost at the 
same instant Gabriel was seen running up the 
avenue from where, seated in his father's buggy, 
he had watched the entire proceeding. He came 
with lowered head — ^with the snort and frenzied 
fury of a maddened bull. As he drew nearer, 
Jerome caught the gleam of a long, keen knife 
in his hand. Jerome knew only too well what 
that meant. With a bound he grasped the pistol 
which lay a few feet from the struggling men 
and barred Gabriel's way. 

"Stop! or I shoot," he shouted. But Gabriel 
paid no more heed to him than he would have 
paid to his shadpw. Having firmly gripped his 
cowardice in a desperate dash to deliver his 
father, he could not be easily turned from his 
purpose. In truth, his reason was temporarily 
throttled, and he came on and on, his eyes burn- 
ing, his breath whistling hoarsely through his 
nostrils. 

"Stop!" shouted Jerome once more when Ga- 
briel was but a few yards distant. It only served 
to increase his speed. And suddenly taking 
deadly aim, Jerome pulled the trigger. The pis- 
tol snapped. Again he pulled, and again it 
snapped. Gabriel was almost upon him. Al- 
ready the knife was poised for the fatal, cleaving 



74 The Gisdle of the Great 

thrust A furious curse rose from Gabriers 
frothing lips. Jerome desperately pulled the 
trigger, but all in vain. 

Desperate dilemmas demand desperate deeds. 
Quickly recalling an old practice which had often 
enabled him to win the bases in the games of 
ball, Jerome made a swift, sliding swoop to- 
wards Gabriel's feet. By happy fortime, he 
caught him firmly around the legs and brought 
him heavily to the ground, the knife plunging 
hilt deep in the soft soil. Before the enraged 
youth could recover from the shock, Jerome had 
wheeled and was upon him with the strength 
and courage bom of splendid manhood and su- 
preme need. 

Gabriel wriggled futily in the firm grasp. Sud- 
denly his courage deserted him and Jerome had 
his way with him. 

The Doctor, too, came out somewhat the worse 
for wear. He had taunted the old lion of River- 
wood once too often. Perhaps the artful physi- 
cian did not know that, gold emblazoned on an 
ancient shield hidden away in the Colonel's gar- 
ret, was this inscription: "Peacably if possible, 
forcibly if necessary." 

As for Gabriel and his father, they never dared 
to climb their family tree for fear of breaking a 
rotten limb. They returned to Rocky Heights, 
however, determined to compass land and sea to 
accomplish the downfall and utter ruin of the 
Watldnses. 



\ 



The Girdle of the Great 75 



CHAPTER XII. 
the foreclosure of the mortgage. 

A funeral is scarcely sadder than the fore- 
cbsure of a mortgage on an old and time- 
honored estate. Little by little the owners help- 
lessly — sometimes hopelessly — reconcile them- 
selves to the loss, attending the sale as they 
would attend the last obsequies of a departed 
relative. And the final crash of the auctioneer's 
hammer is like the thud of clods on the coffin. 
For the place that once knew its master may 
know him no more forever; and he is like the 
grass of his fields. 

Colonel Watkins and Jerome had arrived early 
at Ansonville. In fact, before the earliest riser 
among the villages had peered forth to see what 
manner of day it was, the rattle of their buggy 
wheels had been heard on the frozen street. The 
Colonel had come early for two reasons : first be- 
cause he wished to hold a short conference with 
Mr. MacDonald; secondly because he wanted to 
show the people that he was neither ashamed nor 
afraid to face his fate. On the red fields of bat- 
tle he had never flinched nor fled from his place ; 
and he would not do it now. The same in- 
domitable strain compelled Jerome like a long 
lever protruding through the mist of centuries. 



j6 The GnmcE or tbk Gieat 



Tlicrc had bcm tDnrhfng messes at Rrverwccd 

tfat mGrrrfng: Not die lieast aznon^ thrm hrmg 
the gCTcrositj of Old Sam. He had risei fcng 
before an^rooe dse to banxess and hirch thrrr 



"TJarse Drck.'^ he had sanL a ppr oa cfmig the 
Cofcoel a:i they started to drive otE. "^we aH "s in 
dt tsr or trrbrrfa-^frnn. Yon fsst an* fo'rmist. 
Yba negds holdin' up. De old rrrgger's gwrneter 
do cic bcs'" he kzi fer ye. r=e bin lajai' np ds 
mociey fcr er fccg^ time — ^^ he renxjved a weH- 
vc»n sfaot-faa^ frooi his ccar and handed it to 
the GsLoaeS — "^A hit an" osc hit. De oid nig=- 
gcr kaznt do na. mo' ffarr efb jar all he's gz-t.'' 

Both the GoJemscI and Jcrr me had been greatly 
mo^ed by'the's{d man's de¥«:tion: and he had 
seemed fcggrt becroie they refused his ciferin^. 
He ax^d'TKjC reaSrfc that hs rrrre wctild not 
prove pcwrerfnT ixk Rfrfng' the mc-rt^agc His 
spirit was great cnoT;gh id lift mc-nnrains- 

Twrfre o'cbck, the hc-or appointed fcr the sale, 
was almost at hand. A scxall crowd had gam- 
cred bc&rethe front door of the old-tasinoced, 
sqaare-oomered cHirt hoczse. Xearby a g iant 
oak towered op. rpcgh and raggei with winter 
— a. so&ary sentinel at tbc Tempfe of JnstDce. 
The tree's IruwriTn g shadow fell upon the gruiip 
of men at its feet, as if the salie were destined to 
be a uaucstj of Justice. 

The Coionel and Jerome stood directly beneadi 
the oak. Some distance awaT. near the c o urt 
hoase steps, soood Gabroel and Dr. Allen, stzD 
wtaamg die s^fns of their l e ccul enaxmter. 

The Colonefs coafcrencc wilh Mr. Mao- 





y^ 



The Gudlb of the Great 77 

Donald had been formal and fruitless. The 
banker was coolly courteous. He had once been 
warmly so— when the O)loners bank account was 
large, Mr. MacDonald made it clear to the 
Colonel that he did not care to loan any money on 
real estate with the present condition of the cot- 
ton market. 

Suddenly a little hollow-eyed, sallow-faced, 
lantern- jawed fellow popped up on the court 
house steps like a jack-in-the-box and read the 
notice of the sale. He needed no introduction — 
he was the real estate undertaker, and he seemed 
to take a peculiar funereal pleasure in his profes- 
sion. He was the tool or the fool (the terms are 
synonymous) of Doctor Allen, and occupied his 
spare time in soliciting notes for the shaving par- 
lors of that artful financial barber. 

"What am I offered as a starter for the estate 
of Riverwood?" the auctioneer bawled. He 
scrupulously avoided any reference to the pecu- 
liar merits of the plantation. 

"$2,000!" cried a heavily built man, who had 
just been talking with Doctor Allen. 

"$2,000 — $2,000 — $2,000 — who'll make it 
three ?" cried the auctioneer. 

"$3,000," rang out a voice from a far comer 
of the crowd. The Doctor chuckled. Things 
were running smoothly in the grooves he had 
fashioned — ^and few would ever be the wiser. 
*$3>50o/' quickly cried the first bidder. 
'$4,000," chimed in the second. 
*$4,500," cried another. 
'$S,ooo," roared the heavy man. It was the 



"i 
"J 



78 The Girdle of the Great 

amount of the mortgage and a bland smile of 
satisfaction stole over the Doctor's face. 

"$5,ooo. Are you all done?" called the auc- 
tioneer in a sepulchral tone. 

A prolonged silence ensued. "$5,000, once," 
he continued, "$5,000, twice, $5,000 three times 
and—" 

"$6,000," rose a voice with a Northern accent 
from the extreme edge of the crowd. Dr. Allen 
pricked up his ears and gazed fearfully toward 
a neatly-dressed middle-aged man, who had 
silently approached from the direction of the 
depot. Suddenly the blood left the Doctor's face, 
and an expression of fear dulled his eyes. 

Ananias Blake, the auctioneer, was well nigh 
paralyzed. His salbw face became a sickly 
g^een. His hollow eyes, as he swung his lan- 
tern-jawed features toward Doctor Allen, had 
in them a certain fishy stare. His hesitancy and 
helpless attitude said plainly enough to Doctor 
Allen: "And now what?" 

The Doctor, realizing the danger of the situa- 
tion, shot him a withering glance. "Go on," he 
cried angrily, "what's the matter with you?" 

"$6,000 — ^who'll say seven?" stammered An- 
nanias, actually showing a stain of red in his 
earth-colored face. 

"$7,000," called the large man, who had been 
consulting with the Doctor. 

The Doctor himself had suddenly found it 
necessary to go over to the Bank to see Mr. Mac- 
Donald. 

"Eight thousand!" promptly bid the stranger. 

Another pause. Ananias began to show re- 



\ 



The Girdle of the Great 79 

newed signs of palsy. He quickly found his 
tongue when the Doctor's agent raised the bid 
to nine. 

"Nine thousand dollars; are you all done? 
Nine thousand once, nine thousand twice — " 

"Twelve!" said the stranger in a voice per- 
fectly calm and self-possessed, but with a deter- 
mination to end the matter. 

The crowd gazed agape at him. 

Ananias's eyes bulged out of their hollows and 
his lantern- jaws hung low. He stared helplessly 
at the big man, who, was acting as the Doctor's 
agent, and the big man stared helplessly at him. 
They were evidently unprepared for this bomb. 
It was two thousand dollars beyond the agent's 
limit. Both of them gazed longingly toward the 
Bank across the way. But the Doctor was not 
forthcoming. 

"Call ther bid!" cried Jeffreys, the ferryman 
who happened to be present. "What's ther mat- 
ter with ye?" Three or four sturdy farmers in- 
stantly bore up the demand, pushing their way 
vigorously to the front. "Things hez got ter be 
done square here," one said meaningly, "we 
aint a-goin' ter stand no injestice." 

"I'm sick — and can't proceed," whined Ana- 
nias, wiping clammy sweat from his brow. His 
complexion was corpse-like. His eyes were like 
those of a dead fish. 

"Got ter consult ther Doctor, hey?" cried Jef- 
freys, catching up a limb which had fallen from 
the oak. "Well, I reckon ye'll perceed, er 1*11 
perceed. Ye've f ergot that yer namesake wuz 
struck dead fer liein' erbout Ian.' " 



8d The Girdle of the Great 

Gabriel and the big agent stared helplessly at 
each other. The crowd was against them, and 
they did not dare to interfere. 

Ananias looked frantically about for a way of 
escape. He also sent a tense thought of appeal 
toward the distant Bank. The Doctor was still 
invisible. 

"Go on!" shouted the bystanders, rushing up. 

"Twelve thousand dollars," he faltered. "Are 
you all done? Twelve thousand dollars once; 
twelve thousand dollars twice; twelve thousand 
dollars three times and sold to" — 

Ananias paused and stared stupidly at the 
stranger. 

"Creighton Graves," supplied the stranger 
with a twinkle of humor in his g^ay eyes. 



^ 



The Gisdle of the Great 8i 



CHAPTER XIII. 

THE NEW WOMAN AND THE NEW MAN. 

"You may occupy Riverwood as long as you 
wish, sir," said Mr. Creighton Graves, in re- 
sponse to the Colonel's inquiry as to when pos- 
session was desired. "I shall ride over to-mor- 
row and see the property. Meanwhile, sir, make 
yourself perfectly at ease. I have a very favor- 
able proposition which I shall then submit to 
you." 

"And now," he concluded, cordially extending 
his hand, "I must excuse myself to settle that 
mortgage held by Doctor — Doctor — Doctor Al- 
len." 

"I am very grateful for your kindness, sir," 
said the Colonel warmly; "and I shall be ready 
to ride with you over the plantation." "At any 
rate, Jerome," the Colonel remarked as they 
turned away, "we shall deal with a gentleman. 
And I am never afraid of a gentleman. He's the 
same in the dark that he is in the light ; he'll deal 
no foul blows. North or South, a gentleman's 
a gentleman." 

Jerome made no immediate reply. There was 
a mystery about the purchase of the estate by the 
stranger which he was essaying to solve. How 
could this naturally disinterested party have 



82 The Girdle of the Great 

learned of the sale of the property? and why 
was he so generous in offering them an in- 
definite occupancy ? Ponder as he would, Jerome 
could not unlock the door to this mystery — 
even with skeleton-key of acute mental concen- 
tration. "Yes, father," he said at length, "I am 
glad, too, that he seems to be a gentleman. It 
is pleasant to deal with a man of warmth and 
courtesy. I only hope that he is not deceiving 
us." 

"I know one when I see him," returned the 
Colonel. I've had so much experience with paste 
diamonds that I know the real glitter." 

They were passing a small grocery-store, and 
the air being raw and penetrating, Jerome pre- 
vailed upon his father to go in and remain by 
the fire, while he went on for their horse and 
buggy. 

On the way to the livery-stable it was neces- 
sary to pass Mr. MacDonald's house. The 
banker had built it with a view to bachelorhood. 
And he had built into it much of his own moral 
and physical likeness. It looked selfish and sour. 
The yellow lawn seemed to have wrinkled and 
contracted within itself. From the narrow win- 
dows of the house, one gained but a stingy, sor- 
did view of the world through starving, stunted 
shrubs and trees. No hot-house for plants and 
flowers was apparent. The master of the house 
had neither time nor taste for such unprofitable 
possessions. 

In a distant comer of the yard, however, a 
pigeon-box presented an animated scene of 
parti-colored birds. It was another testimony 



► 






The Girdle of the Great 83 

to the fact that every man has his hobby. The 
banker's hobby was squabs-on-toast. 

Jerome, being in no particular hurry, and also 
something of a fowl-fancier, paused at a con- 
venient angle to observe a pair of fan-tailed 
pigeons. As he stood contemplating them, a 
woman, whom he supposed to be a servant, 
turned the corner of the house and approached 
the pigeon-box. The birds flew eagerly down 
to pick up the grain which she threw out. In a 
moment she turned toward Jerome, and he recog- 
nized her with a start. 
Maxine !" he cried. 
Mr, Watkins !" she gasped. 

He vaulted the fence and was quickly at her 
side. 

"When did you come?" he queried softly, 
pressing her hand in his strong grasp. He noted 
that she was all the more beautiful for her sad- 
ness, and that black brought her fair face into a 
delicate, delightful relief — a rose amid ebony. 

"Day before yesterday," she answered sadly, 
her voice quavering, tears trembling in her eyes. 
"I shall live here with my uncle — he's all I have 
left now, and — " 

"Maxine," he broke in, tightening his grasp 
upon her fingers, "my heart bled for you then. 
It bleeds for you now — hungers for your love. 
And all the more because you have lifted your 
love beyond its reach. 

"Riverwood was sold to-day — ^a stranger 
bought it. It may be several years before I can 
accomplish what you have set for me. Perhaps 
never." 



§4 The Girdle of the Great 

*'But you must," she insisted. "And we must 
get out of this wind. It is very cold." 

She led the way into the parlor where a cheer- 
ful fire glowed in the grate. 

He repeated the encounter with Aliens and the 
incident of the sale in which the auctioneer 
Ananias Blake had so plainly betrayed his al- 
legiance to them. 

She listened attentively, her bosom heaving, 
her eyes aflame now and then. "And did my 
uncle refuse to lend you the money?" she said 
finally. 

"Yes." 

"Ah, it's the old weakness," she sighed. "He 
couldn't see a profit in it. There has been only 
one in our family who loved knowledge better 
than he loved gold; and his picture was never 
hung in our halL" 

"You say the purchaser, Mr. Creighton 
Graves, is going to Riverwood to-morrow?" she 
continued, looking away from him into the fire 
that she might not betray the secret by her ex- 
pression. 

"Yes — and he's the mystery to me," replied 
Jerome. "How did he happen to come down to 
the sale? what interest has he in us anyway that 
he bids my father remain at Riverwood indefi- 
nitely? I confess I don't understand it. Do 
you ?" 

Maxine shrank from this pointed question. 
She did not wish to speak falsely ; neither did she 
care to confess her complicity in the matter. That 
would only serve to humiliate him — ^perhaps to 
drive him from her. 




The Girdle of the Great 85 

"Possibly he may be on the lookout for a win- 
ter-resort, or a gold-mine," she suggested, still 
studying the coals in the grate. 

"In the latter case he's seeking to solve a mys- 
tery as great as himself," he replied. "I do not 
know of any gold hereabout." 

"I do not know what proposition he's going to 
make my father," he ran on. "At any rate I 
shall not be able to enter college in the spring — 
perhaps not the next fall, nor the next, nor the 
next. I cannot leave my father overburdened. 
That would be as despicable as a college-course 
is desirable." 

"And, Maxine," he said with sudden im- 
patience," is Love something to be kept her- 
metically sealed in one's heart for four years? 
Does it like wine become better and sweeter with 
age?" He caught her hands in his and gazed 
hungrily into the placid depths of her blue eyes. 

"Jerome," she answered, dwelling tenderly 
upon his name, "I have dreamed for you great 
things — noble deeds and strong. I have wished 
that you might go to college not for what four 
years can supply but for what they can suggest. 
To many education means a finished course — 3. 
scroll of sheepskin — a gift in gilt; to you it 
should mean infinitely more than this ; the begin- 
ning of strength, the Girdle of the Great. 

"Many young men go to college in love, and 
becoming interested in the pursuit of knowledge, 
outgrow the old ideal. It is well. It is the sign 
of strength. Many, on the contrary, sacrifice 
their future for a sickly sentiment, which after- 
wards dies. That is the dead level — ^the burying- 



86 The Girdle of the Great 



ground of manhood. I love you too well to drag 
you down to that" 

"To drag me down to that?" he echoed. 
'Tfou've kindled the noblest aspirations that ever 
burned in my soul ! You could not do otherwise 
than uplift me. I would stake my life upon 
it" 

"The wings that teach the young eagles how to 
fly must not fetter them in their flight," she re- 
plied with seeming irrelevancy. 

"Among primitive folk," she ran on, "the hero 
appealed to his heroine with trophies of the chase, 
and sterner, bloodier trophies swinging at his 
belt These were the badges of physical prowess 
— ^the bagatelles of brutes. We have made com- 
mercial progress: the gory fleece has become 
golden fleece. To-day we stand upon the thres- 
hold of true progress. He who in the future 
shall approach to ask in marriage the heart and 
hand of the edupated woman must come with 
his manhood girt about with moral and intel- 
lectual trophies — ^and the woman must be worthy 
to receive them." 

Jerome gazed upon the girl with almost open- 
mouthed wonder. Her brilliancy — ^the fine scorn 
of her language when directed against commer- 
cialism — her prophetic foresight, all these over- 
whehned him. 

"So you condemn me as a Philistine — as one 
unlearned?" he said at last, a great burden on 
his heart, "for I have brought you neither gold 
nor learning — only the love old as Eden." 

She started to reply, but the sound of ap- 
proaching footsteps caught her ear. A voice 




The Girdle of the Great 87 

was heard — one that Jerome recognized — Ga- 
briel Allen's voice. He was with Mr. MacDonald, 
and they were coming up the walk. 

"You must go now," said Maxine, touching 
Jerome gently on the sleeve; "they mustn't see 
us together — sometime I'll explain." She hur- 
ried him through the portiere, down the hall, 
thence out the way he had entered. 

"Good-bye," she whispered, pressing his hand, 
*'and don't forget what I have said." 

And Jerome, wondering what it all meant, 
leaped the low wall and went on to the livery- 
stable. 



88 The Gisdle of the Great 



CHAPTER XIV. 

REVELATIONS AT RIVERWOOD. 

True to his word, Mr. Creighton Graves, after 
a sleepless night, set out for Riverwood. (In 
fact, the hostelry beds were so hard that one 
might have been said to board there in at least 
two senses.) He was an average-sized, well- 
built man. His clothes never failed to fit him 
perfectly. His features were strong and agree- 
able, his keen gray eyes giving him the appear- 
ance of a discerning man of affairs. But while 
his entire expression betrayed excellent judgment 
and tireless energy, it was devoid of the fox-like 
cunning which characterized the features of Dr. 
Allen and Mr. Hector MacDonald. 

Colonel Watkins had instinctively spoken 
truthfully in saying that Mr. Creighton Graves 
was a gentleman. For he was worthy of that 
appellation, having ever borne himself with be- 
coming decorum through the currents which 
rushed dangerously between the Scylla and 
Charybdis of Social and Commercial life. 

He had received Maxine's letter just in time 
to reach Ansonville on the day of the sale. 

In the Colonel he had found just such a man 
as the postscript to Maxine's letter had suggested 
—a warm-hearted, high-stnmg, high-toned gen- 




The Girdle of the Great 89 

tleman of the old regime. Nor had he been far 
wrong in his speculative estimate of Dr. Allen. 
He had pictured a leech and found a vampire — a 
difference of degrees. 

His interview with Allen had been brief — ^just 
long enough to transact the necessary business— 
but something about the Doctor's face had 
seemed faintly familiar. The Doctor had been 
nervous and ill at ease. With Mr. MacDonald 
Mr. Graves had simply shaken hands. The 
banker betrayed no sign of ever having heard of 
him — a fact for which he was profoundly grate- 
ful. This would render Maxine's secret more 
secure. And while it was an altogether worthy 
secret, Mr. Creighton Graves was not sorry for 
it to be well guarded- 
Having met Jerome, he had filled out the un- 
written lines in Maxine's letter. Though pos- 
sessing the proper appreciation of a romance, 
Mr. Graves had rib disposition to figure in one 
conspicuously at his time of life. He proposed, 
however, to do everything possible for his old 
friend's daughter; and with him that always 
meant much. 

It was cloudy when Mr. Creighton Graves and 
his driver left Ansonville; by the time they 
reached Riverwood it was snowing. The air was 
raw and chilly. But he was warmly welcomed. 
Old Sam, his black face aglow with hospitality 
and his strong white teeth agleam, stood ready to 
take the horse, and later to bear off the colored 
boy who had driven Mr. Graves over. The 
Colonel, Jerome and his younger brothers all 
came forward to greet the stranger, the mother 



90 The Girdle of the Great 

being busy in the dining room. He was ushered 
into a great room where a roaring open fire 
leaped merrily up the black throat of the wide 
old-fashioned fire-place. In the soft ruby glow 
the polished brass-andirons gleamed like bur- 
nished gold. And every piece of the antique fur- 
niture, from the big black mohair bunge in the 
comer to the ancient oil-paintings on the high 
walls, shone with a rich, resplendent light 
Everything bespoke elegance and refinement. In- 
deed, Mr. Creighton Graves rightly suspected 
that before him was more than one heirloom and 
hall-mark of colonial civilization. 

As the hours passed he was the recipient of 
the most unstrained and unstudied hospitality. 
Not once was he reminded by the least word or 
the slightest suggestion that he was a Northerner. 
He could not have been made more at ease if he 
had been a Southerner of the bluest blood. Nor 
was the attitude of his host in the least obsequious 
or patronizing. It was the true, old-fashioned 
Southern style — 3, hospitality with heart in it. 

Colonel Watkins did not, as most naturally he 
might have done, suggest that they had probably 
fought on opposite sides in the war. Perhaps 
that colossal conflict would not have been men- 
tioned at all had not Mr. Graves, partly out of 
curiosity, taken from the mantel the pistol which 
Doctor Allen had neglected to carry oS on the 
day of the difficulty. 

"This recalls a stirring incident in my life. 
Colonel," he said, holding up the pistol. "And by 
the way let me see if it is empty, for most people 




The Girdle of the Great 91 

killed by pistols nowadays are killed by un- 
loaded ones." 

"I can vouch for it being unloaded, sir," said 
Jerome. And inwardly he rejoiced that it had 
been unloaded on the day of his encounter with 
Gabriel Allen; for he wanted no man's blood on 
his hands. 

**Well, as I was going to say," continued Mr. 
Graves, "I was Major of a regiment. In the 
battle at Bull Run (and you whipped us there 
and did it well, too, Colonel) I was desperately— 
it was thought mortally — wounded and left for 
dead on the field. 

"Night came on and still I was unremoved, our 
men having fled panic-stricken back to Wash- 
ington. I was in great agony, being consumed 
by burning thirst. I finally prayed for death to 
end my sufferings, .having given up all hope of 
human aid. Suddenly my attention was arrested 
by a stealthy step, and raising my head with in- 
tense pain a few inches from the ground, I be- 
held in the pale moonlight one of those human 
vultures, who follow the battle-fields, silently 
robbing the dead. Weak as I was, my blood 
boiled at the sight and I resolved if possible to 
resist his loathsome touch. Somewhat strength- 
ened by this resolution, I attempted to reach my 
pistol, but the effort re-opened my wound and I 
sank back exhausted. 

"Finally the ghoul stood over me and prodded 
me sharply with his sword to ascertain if I were 
dead. I cried out, calling him a coward, and h^ 
cursed me, drawing his weapon to run me 
through. He would doubtless have acoom* 



92 The Girdle of the Great 

plished his purpose, had not a nearby sound of 
hurrying footsteps burst on his ears. Suspecting 
that he might need it, he bent over quickly and 
removed my pistol, and turning, fled like a 
hyena into the dark. 

"My deliverer proved to be a Confederate cap- 
tain. I was so weakened by loss of blood that 
I must have fainted shortly after his arrival ; for 
I remember only that his voice was soft and 
sympathetic — strikingly like yours. Colonel — 
and that he wore the epaulets of a Captain of 
Infantry. When I regained consciousness, he 
was pressing a canteen of cool water to my lips 
(how delightful it was!). Later he gave me 
some brandy and bound up my wound" — ' 

"Why, what is the matter. Colonel?" Mr. 
Graves exclaimed, dropping the thread of his 
narrative, "are you sick" ? 

The Coloners face was indeed calculated to 
inspire surprise. It was written all over with 
wonder. "Why, you are my Yankee Major !" he 
cried, bounding to his feet. 

"And you — ^are my Confederate Captain!" 

For a moment they confronted each other, 
half -credulously, then a wave of recognition 
broke over either face. 

Suddenly the Northerner contradicted the 
theory concerning the phlegmatic disposition of 
his people; he gathered the tall Southerner in a 
crushing, brotherly embrace. There was noth- 
ing maudlin in it. It was magnificent. It was 
manly. It was prophetic. And the swirling 
snow, sweeping over field and forest, was typical 
of the white wings of peace. 



^ 



The Girdle of the Great 93 

"Did you ever notice how many important 
things hinge on the seemingly insignificant, 
Colonel?" said Major Graves at length. "Who 
would ever have thought, for instance, that this 
reunion and recognition would have been brought 
about by such a trivial thing as the sight of an 
old army pistol? I came very near not noticing 
it at all." 

"And this pistol, too," he ran on, examining the 
weapon more closely, "is quite similar to the one 
taken from me on that memorable night. And if, 
like the famed AUadin's lamp, it would enable me 
to discover also my ghoul" — ^the Major spoke 
playfully, smiling at the interest instantly depicted 
on the faces of the boys — "I would indeed con- 
sider it most wonderful." He instinctively 
turned the heavy handle to the right, disclosing a 
secret spring which, upon being pressed, caused 
the pistol to open, revealing in the handle a space 
large enough to contain a half-dollar piece. His 
hands trembled; his eyes widened with wonder 
and incredulity. The color left his face — he was 
gazing upon the miniature photograph of his 
wife. A tear brimmed in his eye and coursed 
swiftly down his strong face. For a moment he 
looked aged and broken. Then he passed the 
photograph to the Colonel. "That is a picture of 
my wife who died while I was away," he gasped. 
"This is the pistol that was taken from me at 
Bull Run." 

"What !" cried the Colonel, "that pistol yours I" 

"Yes." 

"Incredible," exclaimed the Colonel, returning 
the miniature, "and yet it must be true." 



94 The Gihdlb of the Great 

"Who did you say claimed this pistol?*' asked 
Major Graves, scarcely crediting what he had 
seen and heard. 

"Doctor Allen — ^he brought it over here the 
other day to bully me. Leaving slightly worsted, 
he forgot to take it back with him." 

"Then he may be the ghoul who robbed me. 
I thought I had seen him before, though I could 
not recall when and where." 

Then Major Graves tenderly enclosed the pho- 
tograph in a bit of tissue paper and placed it in 
his wallet. "The world is full of strange things," 
he observed, "and almost every day I am offered 
stronger evidence that truth is stranger than fic- 
tion." 

Just then the dinner-bell rang. 

To thoroughly enjoy a good dinner, such as 
was set for Major Creighton Graves on this oc- 
casion, it is necessary to dismiss from one's mind 
all mental, moral and marvelous pabulum, and to 
become simply a good animal. This all the diners, 
with the exception of Jerome, apparently suc- 
ceeded in doing. There was some mystery for 
whose solution he was, according to the most con- 
servative estimate, nothing less than over- 
anxious: the mystery of Major Graves' presence 
on the day of the sale. 

And when the Colonel and his guest finally 
walked out on the veranda to observe the condi- 
tion of the weather, Jerome went too. Perhaps 
some suggestion — some hint — ^might slip the 
leash of secrecy, if secrecy there were. 

It had stopped snowing. The sun, bursting 
through the clouds, shone for a few moments on 




The Girdle of the Great 95 

the wide, white world, and on the mighty river 
winding through its ermine hills . like wine of 
gold from a broken cruse of alabaster. 

"A beautiful vista," observed Major Graves, 
as his eyes, kindling with admiration, wandered 
over the spotless stretch of field and valley, bor- 
dered by the black bastions of the lowering 
clouds. "We can't ride over the estate to-day, as 
we are snugly snowed in, but I shall see it at 
some future time. Indeed, the most rigid re- 
quirement I shall make of you — the Major 
winked at Jerome — is room and board while I am 
down here on a fishing tour every summer. And 
if you, when you accompany me in my Izaak 
Walton peregrinations, don't string more fish 
than you do sharks, I'll immediately foreclose 
my mortgage." He emphasized the statement by 
gently tightening his grasp upon the Colonel's 
arm. 

"Seriously, sir," said the Colonel laughing, 
"how did you learn that I had fallen a victim to 
your shark?" 

Jerome's dark eyes glistened. He could have 
hugged his father for asking that question. 

"It may be," the merchant answered slyly, 
looking off toward the river, "that ^ merchant- 
man like me sometimes finds it necessary to har- 
poon in foreign waters. For instance, when our 
schools of sharks become scarce in New York 
City, we must seek them elsewhere. In other 
words, we must keep our hands — our hooks — 



Ul. 



Jerome's castle of hope fell with a crash — ^thc 
Major was a diplomat 



96 The Girdle of the Great 

^'You Yankees beat the earth in the art of senr- 
ing diplomatic dishes — half-truths with sauce: 
suppositions in the shell." The Colonel's face 
beamed with mischievous merriment. 

"And you Southerners," retorted the Major 
good naturedly, "never know any better than to 
take the shells and sauce seriously." 

"Oh, come on, let's go in to the fire," said the 
Colonel, taking his guest affectionately by the 
arm. "We did our sparring thirty-odd years 
ago ; and we gave each other then a plenitude of 
shells and pepper-sauce." 



Long after the others had retired, two old men 
might have been seen, still shooting inquiries at 
each other through a thick fog of cigar-smoke. 

"The Negro Problem," said the Major, after 
a brief interval of suggestive silence. "What do 
you do with it down here ?" 

"We leave what is left of it to fools and 
fanatics," drawled the Colonel. "And the fools 
and fanatics we leave to Jerry Holmes. Really, 
sir, there is no Negro Problem. Occasionally we 
have a problematic negro. We are not botherincf 
our heads with any problems just now. Sucn 
things like the laws of the universe adjust them- 
selves. It is as fixed as the decrees of the Eter- 
nal that the white man shall remain a white man 
and the negro a negro. And this is not denying 
the negro his rights as a man, nor as a citizen, 
except in so far as he shall forfeit them by crime. 
In that event, the white man shares with the in- 
telligent black man in the great basic opinion that 
the suppression of crime is the purport and 




The Girdle of the Great 97 

province of the law. But these separate tides o£ 
humanity, rising, swelling and surging to the 
flood-height of their destiny shall no more mingle 
than the gulf stream and the Atlantic Ocean shall 
mingle." 

"In the prosperity of the negro/' the Colonel 
went on, after blowing fresh clouds of smoke, 
"we, of the South, rejoice. We are glad for him 
to eat the fruits of his industry. We encourage 
him ; we buy his produce and sell him land." 

"But are you doing anything for him, educa- 
tionally f" queried the Major. 

"We pay the bulk of the taxes and he shares 
equally in their distribution," replied the Colonel. 
"If you will pardon me, Major," he continued, 
without the slightest trace of irritation, "may I 
ask if you are doing anything for him indus- 
trially"r 

"No" — after a moment's hesitation — ^"I must 
confess that New York City is the city of the 
white man's job." 

"As I was about to remark," the Colonel con- 
tinued without comment, "We mean to educate 
the Negro, but not to put a fire-brand in his 
hands or foolish notions in his head. We want 
him to be more industrious, more thrifty, less 
shiftless, less unreliable. Let him be Lawyer, or 
Doctor, or Preacher, or Teacher, or what he will; 
but let him not on that account aspire to set 
aside the universal law of racial instinct — the 
affinity of like for like which the Almighty has 
implanted in the breast of all creatures. To put 
it more plainly, sir, you never saw a ctow seek- 
ing to cast his bt among snow-white pigeons; 



$8 The Girdlr of the Great 

and you never will. As I said before, however, 
we have no Negro Problem, only a few proble- 
matic negroes. For the majority have no desire 
to be other than what God has seen fit to make 
them; and in being honest, industrious, peace- 
ful, law-abiding, and full-blooded negroes, they 
fulfill their highest destiny." 

The Colonel paused, and waited for the Major 
to speak. No unkindly word had been spoken. 
The aristocratic old Southerner had expressed 
his honest convictions, clearly, forcibly and fear- 
lessly, as he had always done. 

"I never saw things in that light before," said 
the Major, still alert, despite his sleepless night 
at Ansonville, "And do you tell me that the 
Negroes share equally with the whites in the dis- 
tribution of the Public School Fund?" 

"Yes. My old man Sam (And there never 
was a more faithful servant; he refused to be 
freed) has two boys — Bill and Ben. These boys 
attended the free-school for Negroes. Last Fall, 
Bill went off to a Negro college, while my son 
Jerome, whose thirst for knowledge is most in- 
tense was constrained by force of circumstances 
to remain on the farm. Bill's idea of education 
can be summed up in two words — Big Man. 
This includes everything superficial. But you 
can scarcely blame the Negro. Naturally, he re- 
gards educational progress as a mere matter of 
outward show — a jingle of bells and baubles." 

"But is it not true, my dear Colonel," inter- 
posed the Major, "That the negro is capable of 
greater intellectual progress ?" 




The Girdle of the Geeat 99 

"Oh, yes, that's true. His progress, however, 
will be slow. He must first clear up his wilder- 
ness of mental weeds. And when the negro's 
mental powers are fully developed, he will no 
longer desire Social Equality — He will then see 
its folly — Its utter futility. One of the greatest 
benefits of education is to be found in the fact 
that it teaches a man where to stay, as well as 
where to go." 

"You are right, Colonel, and like many of our 
leading thinkers I am coming more and more to 
see that the South is fully able to deal with this 
and all other problems, and that if left alone she 
will eventually settle them to the satisfaction of 
all parties." 

The Major suddenly yawned and stretched 
himself full-length in his chair before the dying 
fire. 

"You are getting sleepy. Major," observed the 
Colonel, rising, "Q)me let me show you to your 
room." He led the way to an elegantly- furnished 
room in which a great oak-wood fire was yet 
blood-red in its glow. In one corner of the room 
a tall bed with snow-white covering, but with 
warm blankets, sandwiched between feathers and 
counterpanes, invited to sweet and refreshing 
repose. 

"You will doubtless have dreams enough of 
pistols and problematic negroes," called the 
Colonel cheerily, as he closed the door. "But if 
you are a somnambulist, don't take me for your 
ghoul or a problematic negro." 

"No danger of that," laughed his guest 



80882B 



100 The Gibdle of the Great 

And Major Creighton Graves went to sleep 
that night with one great purpose firmly fixed in 
his mind : to give Jerome Watkins the chance of 
a college education. 




The Gibdle of the Great ioi 



CHAPTER XV. 

AN exceeding high MOUNTAIN. 

If, according to the standard of the Epicurean, 
the dinners at Riverwood were excellent, the 
breakfasts were par excellence. No meal, pre- 
pared at Delmonico's or elsewhere, can surpass a 
Southern breakfast. Its chief glory lies not in 
elaborate courses, but in the consummate skill of 
preparation. 

The Major paid Mrs. Watkins the highest com- 

Eliment possible on the excellence of her fare — 
e ate heartily. 

"A fine day for a rabbit hunt," observed the 
Colonel, suddenly turning his attention from the 
meal to gaze through the window at the broad 
vistas of untrodden snow. "How would you like 
to try one. Major ?" 

"Very much, indeed, sir," returned the Major, 
"But business engagements call me home. I 
shall be compelled to leave this morning; and to 
leave most reluctantly, I assure you. I have 
never spent a more pleasant day and night." 

"The snow is too deep for you to drive. back 
in your buggy," interposed the Colonel triumph- 
antly, "It snowed again in the night. You would 
make but a sorry business of getting back to An- 
soxtville. You had better stay with us till the 
thaw sets in*"" 



102 The Girdle of the Great 

"That would be delightful, Sir, but I shall be 
compelled to keep my engagement ' A failure to 
keep one's word is fatal to all forms of success." 
The Major spoke decisively ; and it was apparent 
that by firmness and fidelity he had won success. 

"Well, if you will go," said the Colonel re- 
luctantly, "You must go in my sleigh. Jerome 
can drive with you to keep you company. My 
rheumatism pains me or I would go with you 
myself. The negro, who drove you over, can 
come later. I know the livery-man and it will be 
alright with him." 

At last, Jerome and Major Graves were on the 
way to Ansonville. Swiftly and silently, save 
for a soft, crunching sound, they sped over the 
trackless road. Up-hill and down, they coursed, 
a stinging breeze in their faces. 

"Jerome," said Major Graves, as they were 
passing a dilapidated farm-house, "Do you wish 
to spend your days on a farm, and perhaps have 
the misfortune to own one like that?" 

"I do not object to remaining on the farm, Sir, 
if I may first fulfill my ambition for a college 
course. I think the main cause of agricultural 
failure, with the exception of climatic conditions, 
is ignorance." The young man spolce enthusiasti- 
cally but without egotism. 

"You are right, my boy," exclaimed the Major, 
with evident admiration. "Few possess the earth- 
knowledge. Thousands till the soil and die with- 
out ever learning its secrets. The success of 
North Carolina, in almost every respect, depends 
upon the proper application of the proper ele- 
ments to ^ soili the basic principle." 




The Girdle of the Great 103 

"You are right, Sir," said Jerome with en- 
thusiasm still evident in his tone. "I know that 
the enrichment of our land shall mean much to 
our people. They will be happier and more 
progressive as the land is made richer." 

"No doubt about that, and your wealth which 
is now seeking other States, will remain at home. 
Besides, other States, instead of drawing froitl 
you, will help to enrich you." 

"Education — Industrial education," con- 
tinued the Major, "Is what you need in the 
South. An education which weans too many men 
from the soil is harmful. We need fewer pro- 
fessional men and more farmers. The farmer 
should be almost as much a man of science as 
the average professor of chemistry; that is to 
say, with reference to the peculiar elements which 
constitute his soil. The theory that only fools 
should farm and go into the ministry has long 
since been exploded. Premiums in the future 
shall be placed, not so much upon what a man 
does, as upon how well he does it. Labor is 
honorable in proportion to the skill employed in 
its execution," 

Jerome listened with rapt attention and silent 
wonder. Here was a man whose mind had not 
been trammeled by trade or tradition; whose 
world was not circumscribed by the almighty dol- 
lar; an honest man who dared to think openly, 
broadly and boldly. 

"Jerome," said Major Graves, suddenly chang- 
ing the subject, "If you really wish to go to col- 
lege, I will provide a way for you to go. I have 

00 lOQ of my own and would esteem it a great 



i «... -. . . ^ 



104 'f HE Girdle of the Great 

privilege, as well as a pleasure, to be able to do 
something for the ambitious son of my pre- 
server." 

Jerome made no immediate reply. He was 
tempted by the generous offer. It showed him 
the easy way — ^the short cut — ^to an education. 
By availing himself of this offer he would the 
sooner possess Maxine's hand. Perhaps, if he 
refused the opportunity, the day of his marriage 
would be far distant, if not hopelessly lost in the 
dim horizon of the future. 

But in the face of these thoughts rose others 
of the majesty and strength of manhood. What 
nobility was ever developed through exercise by 
proxy? He would not appreciate, as a man 
should appreciate in order to realize the fullness 
of his strength, a mere gift of generosity. That 
would be a borrowed girdle. It would possess 
for him no secret charm of toilsome days and 
nights. In his opinion, power sprang often from 
perseverance; prominence from patience. How 
many sons of rich men had he known to squander 
their chance in life; the spendthrift was always 
as prodigal of brain as he was of purse. The 
same burning madness consumed both. To thor- 
oughly appreciate a thing, a man must work for 
it — ^the miner for his gold; the diver for his 
pearl. 

"You are very generous. Sir," he said finally, 
"and I deeply appreciate your offer. But some- 
how I have always wanted to work out my own 
way. I would know then what my education 
cost me. I would know how to value it in 
moments and hours. Do not think, though, even 



t 



The Girdle of the Great 105 

for a moment, Sir, that I fail to appreciate your 
kindly interest in me." 

"YouVe got the right stuff in you," exclaimed 
the Major, unable to conceal his admiration. 
"The world soon wearies of denying success to 
men of your mettle. Forge ahead. You will win 
out in the end. I am ready to stand by you 
(Don't forget to call on me if you ever need 
help.) But you are exactly right; we never ap- 
preciate the things that cost us nothing." 

Then the conversation drifted into less im- 
portant channels. 

As they dashed past the banker's house, Jerome 
caught a glimpse of Maxine through the window. 
She nodded in recognition, and he returned it 
with a wave of his hand. Major Graves feigned 
to see nothing, while making a careful mental 
memorandum of it all. 

In due time, the train left Ansonville with 
Major Graves among ifs passengers. He had, 
as he had anticipated, found no opportunity to 
hold an interview with Maxine. So he employed 
his time, as the train sped Northward, in writing 
her the result of his embassy. 

Meantime, Jerome had sought the banker's 
house. Maxine, herself, came to the door and 
graciously ushered him in. 

"Was that your friend I saw with you in the 
sleigh?" she queried innocently, when they were 
seated in the parlor. 

"Yes," he answered quickly, scrutinizing her 
face, "And he offered to educate me. Wlmt do 
you think of that?" 



io6 The Girdle of the G&eat 

"Why, I think it's lovely of him — ^and of course 
you will accept/' she cried, beaming upon him. 

"No, I shall not" 

"Why?" 

"Because I prefer to make my own way — to 
blaze my own trail through the mental woods. 
In that case, I shall be less likely to bse my bear- 
ings." 

"Ah! How noble," she cried, admiringly. "I 
should have expected it of you. Pardon me, 
there is just a grain of distrust in my disposition. 
I can scarcely believe, for instance, that a man — 
an ambitious young man — ^will not take the first 
car of opportunity" — 

"Especially when there's a woman — z pretty 
young woman — ^at the other end of the line," he 
flashed back. 

"You impudent fellow — ^as if I were a dip- 
loma," she exclaimed; "As if I were to be con- 
sidered in the matter at all." She rested her rosy 
cheeks in her shapely white hands and gazed up 
at him, a perfect picture of maddening loveliness. 

"To be considered in the matter at all?" he 
echoed, his voice trembling with tenderness. 
"You are the soul of all things in which I am in- 
terested. I would despise an enterprise which 
precluded your presence as a guardian angel. 
And tell me," he continued earnestly, "What you 
know about the gentleman — ^about Major Graves 
—who saved our estate? Somehow I have an 
idea that you know him." 

Maxine trembled slightly and lost color. 
''What I — ^know about him ?" she stammered with 



k 



The Girdle of the Great 107 

evident confusion, "Why, what should I know 
about him ?" 

"Didn't you write him to come down here?" 
he asked, tentatively, studying the effect of his 
question upon her face. Little by little, he had 
reached that conclusion, having exhausted every 
other hypothesis in orderly procession. 

"Why do you ask such a question?" she said, 
evasively. 

"Because you are the only one in Ansonville 
who would be likely to take that much interest 
in us, and none of our neighbors have acquaint- 
ance abroad. Major Graves would hardly have 
come here just at the time he did, unless someone 
had advised him." 

"Such things have happened," she replied, re- 
covering her composure. "Do you not believe in 
special providences ?" 

"Yes. In very special ones, when women take 
things in hand — Providences in which things are 
always provided for satisfactorily. Now, own 
up. Didn't you write Major Graves to come?" 

"And what if I did?" she retorted, having 
sought her last subterfuge. 

"Nothing, except that you are the sweetest 
and prettiest and best little girl on earth," he 
cried passionately; "and that I love you better 
than I love anyone on earth." 

His dark eyes scanned her face eagerly for the 
least sign of reciprocated affection, but they 
sought in vain. A marble statue could not have 
been more impassive, more immobile. He never 
knew till bng afterwards how her heart throbbed 



io8 The Girdle of the Great 

that day, and what her feigned indifference cost 
her. 

"Have you no heart?" he cried impatiently, 
"No word of encouragement for me?" He drew 
back and contemplated her, misery and anger 
struggling with the mastering love in his face. 

"There is one more worthy of you than I," she 
answered slowly, almost sadly. "She has suf- 
fered more for you than I can suffer. She loves 
you better than I can love you, because she knows 
that she loves you hopelessly. She deserves the 
praise — for saving your father's estate. Shall I 
— ^is it necessary for me to — call her name? Ah! 
I see that you know of whom I speak" — 

"Is it Marjorie? Can a lily spring from such 
soil?" 

"Yes, it is Marjorie;" she answered, with a 
little sigh ; "And she would give her life for one 
crumb of the love you have offered me." 

"Poor little thing. Poor little thing," he said 
pityingly. "She is worthy of a good man's love 
— ^Yes, she is worthy, a thousand times worthy — 
but one cannot change the decrees of one's heart. 
They are like the laws of the Medes and Per- 
sians. And I am bound to love you for life and 
death." 

He drew nearer to her, his strong face match- 
ing the strength of her own. His hands clasped 
her slender wrist and sought to pull her gently 
toward him. 

"Stop!" she pleaded, struggling in his strong 
grasp. "Not yet. It is no time for sentiment 
when one's dreams of greatness grow bright. 
The heart can wait the bidding of the mind Per- 



if 



The Girdle of the Great 109 

haps that is always best. At any rate, the affairs 
of the heart should be subservient." 

"As I was going to tell you about Marjorie," 
she hastened to interpose, before he could speak, 
"She wrote me of your distress, beseeching me to 
save Riverwood. I did what I could ; it was lit- 
tle enough. I did not mean for you to know it, 
but since you have already guessed my secret, 
there is nothing to conceal. You must be a mind- 
reader." 

Oh! that I were a heart-reader," he sighed. 
I meant, I meant," she concluded, in a falter- 
ing voice, "to do all in my power to give you 
your chance in life. You won't despise me for 
it, will you?" 

"Will I!" he cried, with threatening laughter 
in his eyes, "Oh, no, I reckon not. But you don't 
know what a temptation Major Graves' offer 
was. I stood on an exceeding high moimtain. I 
saw the kingdom of a heart." 

"The kingdom of a heart," she exclaimed, with 
mock satire; "hearts have no kings; they serve 
whom they choose. They are republics. They 
have the right to say who and what their 
executives shall be." 

"Then I shall vote at my own election," he 
said merrily as he rose to go. "And having re- 
ceived a majority of two, shall forthwith declare 
myself duly elected." 

"But, in case of a tie," she suggested smiling, 
so divinely that her teeth gleamed like rows of 
pearls, "Who'll cast the deciding vote?" 

"The clergyman," he laughed. 

A warmth of color reddened her fair cheeks; 



I 

I 



no The Girdle of the Great 

loveliness and lingering beauty sparkled in her 
blue eyes. Visions of far-off days rose up in 
mist of silver and dust of gold before her yearn* 
ing gaze. For a whirling moment, all the splendor 
of love was in her face — ^brilliant, beautiful, 
dreamy, as far-flung pulsings of twilight melody. 

"Ah!" she said at length, in a half-whisper, 
relaxing the tender clasp of her white fingers 
upon the hand he had extended in farewell. 
"Thou art drunk with the wine of wit" She 
knew, even when she said it, that he had read the 
tell-tale tokens in her face. And no Belshazzar*s 
fate at that. She knew that he had seen the 
earnest of ultimate victory. 

He made no reply; his heart was too full of 
joy; the rhapsody of silence was sweet to his 
soul. Out over the glistening leagues, he rode 
back to Riverwood ; past sombre, snow-sheathed 

Cines; past the white horns of hillocks; past the 
road clearings, where deep stains of ruby 
marked the death rays of the sun — ^yea, out into 
the throbbing tide of new-bom hope, he rode 
right merrily. 




The Girdle of the Great hi 



CHAPTER XVI. 

A DISTURBED DOCTOR. 

The appearance of Major Graves had been like 
a horrid nightmare to Dr. Allen. It had sent him 
perspiring and palpitating from the scene of the 
sale. Through the long hours of the night, his 
heart had been the romping-ground of reveling 
demons of fear. Had the Northerner recognized 
him as he, despite the long years, had recognized 
the Northerner ? Would the mask finally be torn 
off to present him in his true character to the 
confiding residents along the Pee Dee ? He must 
do something, and that quickly. He must cement 
the bonds which already linked him loosely to 
Mr. MacDonald. Firmly bound in business in- 
terests to such a shrewd and successful financier 
as the banker had shown himself to be, the Doctor 
could snap his finger at the old skeleton which 
had so suddenly rattled out of his closet. 

Accordingly, the Doctor ordered horse and 
sleigh, and accompanied by Gabriel, set out for 
Ansonville on the very afternoon that Jerome 
was returning to Riverwood. As Jerome was 
sweeping swiftly along the road about half-way 
between Ansonville and Riverwood, he caught 
sight of an approaching sleigh — ^a bobbing, black 
object whose occupants were half-hidden by the 



112 The Girdle of the Great 

climbing horse — far down near the foot of a 
hill. In a few moments he saw that they would 
pass each other midway the slope. It being the 
custom for incomers to have the right of way, 
Jerome turned from the road. He soon saw that 
the occupants of the sleigh were Gabriel and Dr. 
Allen. He also noted that they were bending to- 
ward each other as if whispering or conversing 
in low tones. Suspecting that they were plotting 
to do him some bodily harm, he held his whip 
ready to defend himself. 

"Heigh ! You young cus, why don't you give 
us more margin?" shouted Doctor Allen as they 
drew alongside. "You're still trying to take the 
earth, I see !" 

"Yes, but I haven't got down to robbing the 
dead yet," retorted Jerome, his face whitening 
with anger. "I have recently learned that was 
your former occupation. Therefore, I can easily 
understand why you have no hesitancy in robbing 
the living." 

Doctor Allen's face became purple with fear 
and passion. His shifty eyes widened, then 
snapped fiery red like the eyes of a mad-dog. 
His side-whiskers bristled. "Repeat that, you 
contemptible little imp, and we'll" — the Doctor 
glanced at Gabriel — "thrash the impudence out 
of you." 

"It is true and you know it," said Jerome 
firmly. "You once tried to rob Major Graves 
and my father frightened you off. Why did you 
leave so suddenly on the day of the sale? You 
are many years my senior, but your record for- 
feits for you all respect and reverence. You are 



The Girdle of the Great 113 

two to one," he cried, raising the long heavy 
whip, "But I defy you to touch me!" 

The Doctor and Gabriel were both at white 
heat. Quickly leaving their sleigh, they rushed 
towards Jerome, the Doctor to the rear and Ga- 
briel to the front. With a swift crack, the long 
lash leaped out and caught Gabriel a blinding cut 
across the eyes which sent him stumbling aim- 
lessly in the snow. The same blow served to 
frighten the Doctor's horse; and instead of 
clutching at Jerome's back as he had intended, 
the little man sprinted through the snow after 
the fleeing horse. Gabriel, too, as soon as he 
could recover from his shock, joined in the chase. 
Owing to the difficulty of running up a snow- 
covered hill, the horse soon stopped, and the 
twain, blowing and well-nigh breathless, re-en- 
tered the sleigh and continued their journey, 
while Jerome, laughing heartily at the surprising 
turn of affairs, drove on to Riverwood without 
further incident. 



When they reached Ansonville, Dr. Allen went 
at once to the bank and sought an interview with 
Mr. MacDonald. 

"I tell you, Mr. MacDonald," he said with a 
downward sweep of his hand, "That unless we 
protect our interests against that Yankee, he is 
going to clean us up, lock, stock and barrel. In 
my opinion — the Doctor's tone became low and 
confidential — "He is nosing around for gold." 
(Mr. MacDonald was instantly interefited.) 
"And we have got to combine against him or be 
drawn intp his 4rag-n^tf" 



I 



X14 The Girdle of the Great 

*'Ah !" exclaimed the banl^^r, avariciously rub- 
bing his hands together as if sifting gold-bearing 
sand, "We must look into that. But, my dear 
Doctor, we must not forget that we ourselves are 
foreigners; that is to say, we are not natives of 
the State." 

"And for that reason," whispered the Doctor, 
drawing still nearer, "We should work this ter- 
ritory for all it is worth. We should cast our 
hooks for suckers. We will never be profited by 
pulling against each other. Let's join hands. 
We can control this section. And in my opinion, 
it's rich as Croesus — 2l veritable El Dorado." 

The banker's small eyes glittered greedily. The 
Doctor was the only man he had really feared. 
Now the opportunity to tie him hard and fast 
was at hand. 

"Ah, well, we'll look into that," he said uncon- 
cernedly, leaning far back in his chair, his eyes 
half-closed, "What is your — er — ^proposition?" 

"Simply this : That we form a co-partnership 
for the purchase and sale of real estate." 

"A good suggestion," exclaimed Mr. Mac- 
Donald tersely, "We'll have the papers drawn up 
at once." 

The shrewd banker's eyes contracted still more. 
The gleam which shot through his half-closed 
lids was the cunning fire of a fox's eyes. 

"What requirement must we fulfill?" queried 
the Doctor, not without his own crafty expres- 
sion. "Must we put up any money, or can we 
arrange to deal as brokers ?" 

"Our principal gains should come from shrewd 
purchases and speedy sales," replied Mr. Mac- 



The Gisdle of the Great X15 

Donald. "For this reason it is necessary for us 
to be something more than mere real-estate 
brokers. Capital stock — ^paid-up capital stock — ^is 
therefore absolutely essential." The banker spoke 
like a man thoroughly familiar with all the de- 
tails of such a business. 

"And that Brandon Place," said the Doctor at 
length, studying the banker's ruddy, clean-shaven 
face as though it were a map, "What are you 
going to do about that? Old Watkins has the 
drop on you in the matter of the title, but there 
is more than one way to jump a claim." 
"What do you mean?" 
"That deeds are not imperishable." 
"Well, we will leave that for the present," sug- 
gested the banker shrewdly, "and get our other 
matters with reference to the co-partnership in 
good business shape." 

In a short while the co-partnership had legally 
materialized and the banker and the Doctor sat 
down together to play a shrewd game of finan- 
ciering, each alert and watchful for the master- 
stroke. 



Gabriel had sufficiently recovered the use of 
his eyes to see his way to the banker's house. 
He only wished that he could see his way half as 
clearly to Maxine's heart. Nevertheless, he was 
surprised at the almost cordial greeting which 
she gave him. He was far too superficial in such 
matters to see that a victor can afford to be 
generous. It had never occurred to him, for in- 
stance, that she was thoughtful enough to arrange 
a deliverance such as had befallen the Watkinses. 



ii6 The Girdle of the Great 

He attributed that to some Devil with whom he 
was not in league. 

"Why, what is the matter with your eyes, Mr. 
Allen ?'* she asked suddenly, as he leaned eagerly 
forward to ask some question. 

"Oh, nothing," he replied, "Just a trifling ac- 
cident. "I had the misfortune to come in con- 
tact with a crazy brute. I passed Jerome Watl^ins 
on the road. He fell upon me without warning. 
Only a coward would do that." 

Gabriel ceased speaking and regarded her with 
an expression of wounded pride. 

"Are you quite sure that you gave him no cause 
for such conduct?" she asked. 

"That I am. I didn't say a single word to 
him. Nor did I strike him in return," he added 
significantly. There was a decidedly pathetic 
plea in his voice. He was shrewd enough to 
know that a woman's sympathy is her weakest 
point. Having failed to win his case by other 
means, he sought now to pose as a martyr. He 
chuckled inwardly at the expression of sympathy 
(he really thought it that) which instantly ap- 
peared on her face. He felt that he was slowly, 
but surely, occupying the citadel of her affections. 
"Ah !" he congratulated himself, as the old yearn- 
ing for riches which ever ran in his blood — for 
riches, by the foulest means, if necessary — rose 
up with the serpent's soft voice, "That Brandon 
place shall be mine after all — Mine!" He dug 
his nails into his palms. 

"I have never believed in oppression," she said, 
finally. 

Gabriel was almost sure that she meant no re* 



^ 



The Girdle of the Great 117 

flection upon him ; and that she spoke out of the 
fullness of sympathy for him. His moon-shaped 
face now bore every mark of martyrdom. 

"I knew you would see that I was in the right," 
he exclaimed, his voice sinking to a minor note, a 
buoyant gleam in his blue eyes, "and that you 
would be honest enough to say so. And I'll tell 
you, Maxine," he ran on, "that fellow Watkins 
is the biggest hypocrite on earth. He has been 
trying to fool you all along. Just like he fooled 
that poor little Marsden girl, across the river. 
Beware of him. His sanctimonious dignity is 
but a mask. You think I am bad (oh, yes, you 
do), but the difference between Jerome Watkins 
and myself is the difference between night and 
day"— 

"In that you are right," she broke in. "Your 
characters are utterly dissimilar — as much so as 
night and day." She regarded Gabriel with an 
anal)^ical attitude, which for some reason, he 
thought, to be ardent admiration. The blood 
surged to his face till his temples throbbed^ and 
his heart swam with ecstatic melody — ^the drum 
beat of dreams. 

"How good of you to say so," he cried joy- 
fully, "And you don't think I am bad"? 

"No." 

"Glorious !" he exclaimed, suddenly diving for 
her hand, "My happiness is finished." 

"I do not think you are bad, Gabriel," she said 
slowly, "I know it." 

The barometer in his heart suddenly tumbled 
to zero. 

"Then you shall have cause for your knowl- 



ii8 The Girdle of the Great 

edge/' he retorted; ''I will make you sorry that 
you ever lived. Jerome Watkins shall never en- 
ter college, nor call you his wife." 

He arose, quickly, and with angry mutterings, 
stamped out into the street, crushing the soft 
snow beneath his heavy boots as if he were a 
conquering demon, and it were an angel's heart 




The Girdle of the Great XI9 



CHAPTER XVIL 
the silent struggle. 

Major Graves' letter came duly to Mr. Mac- 
Donald's hands for the reason that all Maxine's 
letters passed through that icy channel, the 
banker esteeming it an essential part and prerog- 
ative of guardianship to exercise this espionage 
upon his ward's correspondence. 

For some reason — ^perhaps because it bore the 
railway postmark — Mr. MacDonald carefully 
(he regretted that he could not do it coldly) 
heated a small, thin paper-knife and inserted it 
beneath the sealed side of the envelope. Then 
he removed the letter, softly drew down his win- 
dow-shades, and, lighting a tiny brass lamp, 
slowly read the Major's message. 

"Um-ah," he exclaimed at length, pressing his 
long white fangs upon his lower lip, "I thought 
so. I'm not much of a believer in miracles. I 
knew the girl had a hand in it. In love with that 
lanky, bankrupt Watkins boy, eh? I must look 
into that matter. With us MacDonald's money 
must marry money" — ^he chuckled and clenched 
his fist — "when it marries at all.'' 

Then he carefully replaced the letter, and re- 
sealed the envelope so perfectly that only an ex- 
pat could have told that it had been tamper^ 



120 The Girdle of the Great 

with. Mr. MacDonald had long studied the art 
of covering up his tracks, and prided himself 
upon his cunning. 

Suddenly the clink of silver reached his ear, 
and he smiled gloatingly. It was the voice of his 
sheep. 

He loved to hear them come tinkling home 
from the pastures. He loved to see the pale 
cashier herd them in shining heaps. 

He arose, opened his private door, and went 
into the bank-enclosure. Sinking into a chair, he 
sat studying the cashier's face while he bent over 
a book. It was an honest face, clear cut, con- 
scientious. The mouth was firm. There was no 
shifty light in the deep-set eyes; it gleamed 
steacfy and clear upon the ledger, revealing only 
what was right and fair. It dawned upon Mr. 
MacDonald, as he sat watching the cashier, that 
he was not the man for his future necessity. 

"I must discharge that incompetent," thought 
the banker, seeking to compromise with his con- 
science, "and install Gabriel Allen. It is a part 
of my program" — he smacked his lips as if he 
had just eaten a broiled squab — "an essential part 
of my program." 

Next day, being the last of the month and the 
end of the year, the cashier was discharged on 
the ground of incompetency. The poor fellow 
had a large family dependent upon him and was 
reduced almost to the point of despair, but Mr. 
MacDonald had said ''Business was Business," 
and he was forced to go. 

Gabriel, who had given up his course at col- 
lege, was duly installed as Cashier. Despite die 



The Girdle of the Great 121 

constant miscarriage of his plans, he entered the 
bank with a decided thrill of triumph. With the 
shrewd banker on his side, he would ultimately 
win Maxine. 

Having made that conquest, his happiness 
would be complete. Not the least enjoyable of 
victories, however great, would be the defeat of 
his hated rival, Jerome Watkins. 

The Doctor's heart, too, was athrob with new- 
born hope. He would tighten his clutches upon 
the banker and slowly draw him in. A little bait 
was all that remained needful. 

The Doctor, therefore, soon made an unusually 
large deposit, at which the banker smiled broadly, 
benignly. 

One morning, shortly after Gabriel had taken 
charge, Mr. MacDonald called Maxine into his 
study and indicated a chair near his side. 

"Sit down a moment, Maxy, dear," he said 
cordially, "I have something to say to you." 
She silently obeyed. "You must be quite lonely 
here," he ran on suavely, "and company — good 
company — ^would be very desirable, very delight- 
ful. I should not be willing, however, for cer- 
tain young men to call. For instance, I should 
very seriously object to— um — ^at— Jerome Wat- 
kins. 

"But I have learned that my cashier, Gabriel 
Allen, has most admirable traits. He has the 
most decided talent for money mak" — 

"But, Uncle, you surely don't mean to suggest 
that I should encourage Gabriel Allen?" She 
raised her gold-penciled brows in utter astonish- 
ment. 



1:24 I'he Girdle of the Great 

None of the MacDonalds had ever bade a shin- 
ine, ground-faced dollar good-bye without the 
sharpest sting of regret 

But, on the other nand, rose the heritage of the 
Edinburgh Scholar, and the learning of her fore- 
bears towards aestheticism. Somehow in the con- 
flict, which rose spontaneously in her soul,Jthese 
latter stood together allied against the avarice 
with which neither of them possessed in common. 

On rushed the hostile forces, the cannon-wheels 
of Commercialism grinding into the soft soil of 
sentiment; the recruits of Aestheticism led by the 
burning light of the Ancient Scholar. There in 
her heart they gripped and clung and fought hand 
in hand. Now the shining lances of Commer- 
cialism poised and pierced and drove back the 
allies. 

But ever, when the battle seemed lost by the 
allies, the light of the Ancient Scholar would 
burst through the blinding blackness — b, beam too 
bright to be withstood, burning success from the 
grip of Defeat. 

Again and again the mailed host of the Money- 
King rushed to the front. Again and again they 
were repulsed. 

The battle ground reeled and rocked beneath 
their silvery feet. Like Magic they recovered 
their strength and returned to the attack. Here 
gleamed the golden shield of Penuriousness ; 
there a diamond-hilted dagger of shrewd dealing. 
The victory seemed theirs. 

They were strong with the greed of the genera- 
tions. From miserly old Malcolm MacDonald, 
clutching his sordid siller on the Scottish high* 



I 



The Girdle of the Great 125 

land, down to the girl's father, they were a host 
to be reckoned with. 

In one point only was the line broken ; the An- 
cient Scholar, who had harked back somewhere 
(mayhap to some studious monk with whom the 
bonds of marriage had been stronger than the 
bans of church) left that glaring gap. He, too, 
was to be reckoned with. And the man who has 
burned out his life for an ideal, however humble, 
leaves no easily erasible trace in his blood. 

For hours Maxine paced her floor as restless 
as ever a lioness walked the narrow border of her 
cage. Jerome was her ideal. Must she give him 
up ? Must she sell her heart for a price ? There 
were things above the price of rubies — ^honor, 
self-respect, culture, refinement. 

No, she would be free ; she would have these at 
any sacrifice. She loved the beautiful in life — 
she loved knowledge — ^and these should be her 
masters. 

In the strength of victory she paused suddenly 
before the window and gazed down the narrow, 
niggardly street to where stood the bank — 
solemn, strong and sour — an apotheosis of the 
banker's ideal. 

The light in her eyes was clear, splendid, bright 
as the shafts of midday; it was the light of the 
Ancient Scholar. 

♦ 4e 4e 4e 4e 4e ♦ 

Meantime the banker had said to GabrieL 
"Everything'U come around all right, GabrieL 
You've got to break 'em in. Of course I don't 
know how to do it. But a young fellow like you 
oughtn't to have much trouble. There is one 



126 The Girdle of the Great 

thing certain: you're going to have the right of 
way; Fve forbidden her to admit Jerome Wat- 
kins in my house. And come ivhat may, my will 
is law — law, sir, even in love affairs." 

A twinkle of hope shone in Gabriers eyes. 
"Old MacDonald's a fool, after all," he thought, 
"a wise old fool. He knows where his books are 
buttered." 



«> 



The Girdle of the Great 127 



CHAPTER XVIII. 
''the meeting in the turpentine orchard/' 

Glorious April had come. Everywhere the 
buds were bursting, scattering snow balls amid 
the emerald trees. A dreamy, hazy blue slept in 
the arching sky. 

The woods rang with a pulsing passion of bird 
calls. Incense fit for the altars of the Gods rose 
from the rich brown earth. From the red browed 
hills to the great river running tawny to the sea, 
the scenery around Riverwood and Rocky 
Heights was exquisitely beautiful. 

On a hillside, overlooking the river, Jerome 
and Old Sam were plowing. Fired by the fever 
of education, Ben, Old Sam's second son, had 
bundled up and bustled off to a negro industrial 
school. 

Thus a double burden came to Jerome's 
shoulders. Thje farm work had to be done, and 
in his straightened circumstances the Colonel was 
unable to employ extra labor. 

But to stoop continually to this tiresome toil, 
Jerome, too, had passed through a silent struggle, 
not with Commercialism, but with the passionate 
pride which had been in the blood of the Wat- 
kinses since the days of William the Conqueror. 

A firm believer in the ideals and aspirations of 



xa8 The Girdle of the Great 

the New South, loving the soil of his native States 
thrilled by its traditions and touched by the 
deep pathos of its dark illiteracy, he was never- 
theless appalled by the menial labor to which he — 
a representative of the New South — had been re- 
duced. Yet he recognized that this was the 
crucible through which ambitious youth of the 
New South must needs pass — ^the crucible, indeed, 
through which he himself had chosen to pass. 
But, however strong his determination, and how- 
ever clearly he might foresee his reward in the 
ultimate issue, there was still in his constitution 
the latent germ of a chivalry, which could 
scarcely see the prancing charger of the sixteenth 
century, and the shining coach of the old regime, 
supplanted by a trace-worn plow-horse, without a 
pang of wounded pride. 

Was the result worth the effort? Did the 
mountains appear grander because one had 
climbed too slowly to conceive their height? Was 
it necessary for the young eaglet to live in a little 
barnyard with vaunting fowls in order to acquire 
strength of wing? 

Jerome could no more have accepted his 
laborer's lot without a struggle than one of his 
forebears could have ridden a mule at tourney 
without swearing. 

The love of the soil — ^the feudal baron's love- 
he had indeed. That was deeply implanted in 
his nature ; it was a part of his heritage. 

He loved the virgin beauty of the land: with 
childlike joy he watched it blossom into harvest ; 
be was awed by the profound mystery of the 




The Girdle of the Great x^ 

seasons which shrouded it into snow or smiled it 
into warmth and beauty. 

But hitherto he had loved and watched and 
been awed as one apart, like the traveler who 
gazes wonder-eyed upon the stupendous structure 
of Cheops, or the geysers hung silver-spangled 
between earth and sky — ^miracles of stone and 
steam ; henceforth he was to be vitally akin to the 
soil, its son in the highest, even when his feet 
pressed the lowest strata of honest labor. There 
would he find his strength ; there would he come 
to see that the highest type of citizenship is to be 
found, not in mental monstrosity, nor in the per- 
fection of brute strength, but in well-rounded 
manhood. He might have studied text books 
while he plowed — ^as he did study the great earth- 
book, underscoring it with his plow — (noble men 
^he primitive giants — had done that) — ^but 
somehow he had conscientious scruples on that 
point. He held that a man's first duty was to the 
working hand, however lowly; that the flower y 
of his strength should be given to his avocation, 
however humble. In his opinion, no man had 
ever studied astronomy and at the same time run 
a straight furrow. His idea of labor was an 
X-Ray; a consuming concentration. 

In other words, he was a firm believer in the 
maxim that whatever was worth doing was worth 
doing well. 

He ploughed in the day and studied at night. 

Now and then as he plowed this day his eyes, 
when he stopped at the end of the furrows, would 
travel to the great river rushing far below like a 
restless vein of life. It always seemed to him 



130 The Girdle of the Great 

typical of the New South — a giant unharnessed 
— a quivering, throbbing thing that had never 
known its power. In fancy, he could see the river 
harnessed to a thousand mill wheels, and catch 
the lurid glow of electric lights along its path. 

"Some day it will happen," he suddenly said 
aloud. "And some day the South will be busy 
like the North." 

"What did you say, my son?" 

Jerome turned quickly to see his father, who 
had approached so silently that he had not per- 
ceived his presence. "I was just thinking aloud, 
father/' he replied with some confusion. 

Col. Watkins pretended not to notice the high 
color in Jerome's face, and removing a letter 
from his pocket, read aloud the latest naval store 
report. 

"That looks like there's going to be something 
in turpentine, my son," he said at length. "I 
want you to stop plowing to take charge of a 
squad of hands in the new orchard to-morrow. 
Walter can take your place here." 

"All right, sir," responded Jerome. "I am 
ready to do what you think best." 

Next day Jerome was in the turpentine or- 
chard. With him were ten negroes. They began 
the work of hacking and pulling boxes cheerfully, 
industriously. All went well till a strange negro 
made his advent in the orchard. He asked for 
employment. It was given him. But he soon be- 
came trifling, and began to stir up strife among 
the other hands. Jerome discharged him. He 
left the orchard with a muttered threat of ven- 
geance. 




The Girdle of the Great 131 

On the Saturday morning following the negro's 
dismissal, Jerome noticed that the hands were 
noiser than usual. There was a note of mad 
mirth in their swelling tones as they sang at their 
work. Being anxious to finish a certain territory 
before paying off the hands in afternoon, he had 
removed his coat, and, taking a hack, had gone 
on in advance of the negroes, thinking to inspire 
them by his example. Suddenly, as he entered a 
little ravine, he came upon an empty whisky 
flask. That told the tale. 

With a start, he recalled that he had left his 
pistol in his coat pocket. He turned quickly and 
walked briskly in that direction. The coat was 
fully a hundred and fifty yards distant. When 
he was within about thirty yards the strange 
negro, who had evidently been lying in wait, 
sprang forward and grasped the coat. There 
was a devilish glitter in the negro's eyes ; he gave 
a gutteral, bush-man like cry of triumph as he 
removed the pistol. 

"Cum on, boys!" he cried, flourishing the 

weapon. "We'se gwineter show dis d ^n white 

man who's boss in dese woods !" 

A hoarse murmur of approval greeted this ex- 
clamation, and several negroes rushed forward 
to join the bearer of the pistol. 

Jerome grasped a pine-knot, which lay at his 
feet and silently assumed the defensive. His 
face was like stone in its flrmness. Not a trace 
of fear was discernible in his attitude. 

On came the negroes, fired by unreasoning 
fury of liquor-heated brains. 

Under the powerful stimulant, every vestige of 



« 



IJJ The Girdle of the Great 

civilization was forced from their veins, and they 
harked back to the primitive — ^to the carousing 
craze of cannibals. They were in the jungles 
again, alert, active, snake-like. 

"Stand back I" cried Jerome sternly, as the 
first one rushed near. "Q)me on! Kill him!'* 
the strange negro shouted in a very frenzy. He 
aimed and fired the pistol, but the ball flew wide 
of the mark. As he drew nearer, Jerome struck 
his hand, knocking the pistol far out into the 
bushes. This turn of aifairs slightly confused the 
others. They wavered a moment, holding back 
half-hesitatingly. They had not counted on the 
white man's courage. 

"Q)me on." cried the strange negro, produc- 
ing a razor, " 'an 'less fix him !" 

But the words were scarcely out of his mouth 
when Jerome leaped forward and struck him a 
blinding blow in the face, doubling him up on 
the ground. His aim was to disconcert the others 
so as to gain an opportunity to recover the pistol. 
But before he could do so they were upon him 
like a black whirl-wind. The craze of liquor had 
conquered their native cowardice. With the cool, 
calculating courage of the Anglo-Saxon, he de- 
fended himself, striking vigorously right and 
left. A powerful, well-directed blow sent a big, 
burly negro to the ground; another, equally as 
timely, broke the arm of a tall, thin negro who 
was in the act of springing at Jerome's throat 
with a razor. 

Strangely enough, these mishaps seemed only 
to infuriate the otfiers, and they redoubled their 
efforts to get Jerome in their clutches. The 




i 



Vis "' 



/4 






^7 



THE NEW YORK 

PUBLIC LIBRARY 



ASTOR, LENOX AND 
TILDEN FOUNDATIONS 



The Girdle of the Great 133 

mania of murder was in their blood. They came 
on like mad-dogs. An active young negro, who 
was not too drunk to see a possible advantage, 
swiftly slipped into the bushes, and silently re- 
appearing behind Jerome, dealt him a paralyzing 
blow on his right arm. The faithful pine knot 
fell to the ground, and with a yell of fiendish de- 
light the foremost negro, armed with a hack, 
leaped toward Jerome. The one in the rear had 
already grasped Jerome around the waist. A 

moment more and a long black lash leaped 

like a hissing snake into the negro's face. Fast 
and furiously it swept back and forth, striking 
its stinging scourges, cutting the flesh at every 
blow. 

"Back! Back! you black debbils!" shrieked 
the owner of the scourge, quickly following Up 
his mighty strokes. He was a lean, wizened old 
man; but his muscles were like thongs of buck- 
skin ; and his purpose was kingly. ^^ 

The others retreated before him like scpiirged 
hounds. For fifty years he had been known- as 
"Old Sampson of the Pee Dee," and his strength 
was not questioned now. The spell of his pres- 
ence sobered them. 

"Git out — crawl out!" he thundered to the 
strange negro, who had sufficiently recovered to 
grasp his razor. "Git out, I say" — ^the whip-lash 
popped and curled like a stinging worm around 
the negro's neck — "yo can't shave dis nigger, if 
you does live on de Allen place !" The disturber 
awaited no second invitation. He scrambled to 
his feet and quickly vanished in the forest. 

"I cum artcr dat — bad uv light 'd— des in time, 



134 The Girdle of the Great 

Marse Romey," said the old man, beginning u> 
show signs of weakness now that the struggle 
was ">ast. "Oh, Lawd — wat's gwineter becum uv 
dese niggers — strikin' de han' dat gibs tun 
bread? 

"But some white man put um up ter dis deb- 
blishness, dat he did." 

Jerome had his own suspicions, but to them he 
made no reference. He warmly thanked Old Sain 
for coming to his rescue. 



5 



The Girdle of the Great 135 



CHAPTER XIX. 

THE METTLE OF A MAN. 

The affair in the turpentine orchard did not 
disconcert Jerome; it did not swerve him from 
his purpose. He had long known the flagrant in- 
gratitude of the younger generation of negroes. 
And it was therefore no surprise to him that sev- 
eral of those who had received special favors at 
his hands had turned against him. He saw in 
the mutiny only another proof of the negro's 
moral depravity — a depravity exceeding that of 
the Indian whose gratitude for favors had passed 
into proverb. And yet, serious as the assault had 
been, he could not lay the blame wholly at their 
door. He knew full well that, like numerous 
other infractions of law and order, this one had 
its origin in the cunning brain of a white man. 
He knew full well that the negro problem would 
not be nearly so intricate, but infinitely farther on 
the highway to solution, if the white man who 
used the neg^ as a political and private tool 
would step down and out and give the wise and 
thoughtful and conscientious citizens of the 
South a chance to solve it. 

Jerome lost no time in securing a new squad 
of hands. The work was pushed with renewed 
energy. The price of spirits turpentine continued 



ij6 The Ghldle of the Gkeat 

high. He saw in that his opportunity to enter 
college. And he had determined to enter college 
at any hazard. His father had insisted on em- 
ploying an assistant overseer. Jerome would not 
hear to that, replying that he would stay there 
ak>ne if all the negroes in North Calolina re* 
belled. But the last ones gave him no trouble 
whatever ; they worked willingly, and to the best 
advantage. He treated them kindly, though 
firmly, requiring each one to do his duty. 

Often he lent his own hand to the task, dipping 
the rich resinous substance from the deep boxes. 
With bared arms, sim-tanned and corded with 
muscles, he carried the heavy bucket from tree to 
tree. The fragrant breath of the great forest 
was in his nostrils. Far away stretched the 
filmy blue vistas, broken here and there by the 
snowy flakes of scrope upon the tall, stately trees. 
Beneath his feet the Brown carpet of fallen pine- 
needles made pleasing contrast with the emerald 
of the overhanging branches. Here in this wide, 
wild world his soul marched to the music of the 
pines. So magnificent they appeared, towering 
above all else, scorning the stunted shrubs of the 
nether forest And yet they were bleeding out 
their hearts for man — for him — ^bleeding that he 
might have his chance in life. Far-fetched as it 
may seem, he recalled the great principle of 
Atonement in Nature — the suffering of the 
vegetable and animal world for man — the blood 
of the beast— the blood of the tree. "What is 
man that thou art mindful of him, or the Son of 
man that thou visitest him?" The question of 
the Psalmist sprang into Jerome's mind agaim 



The Girdle of the Great 137 

and ag^in. And he would answer again and 
again: "He is immortal — he is greater than 
beast or tree — he is greater than Nature — he is 
greater than all but (5)d." Then he would begin 
to see that in the mighty economy of the Eternal 
cver)rthing occupied its peculiar place — every 
drop of water its place in the ocean— every peb- 
ble its place in the earth— every tree its place in 
the forest. Above all was man ; and above man 
was mind; and above mind was soul; and above 
soul was God — ^the Primogeniture, 

Thus did Jerome argue as he went about his 
work in the forest. Hence he came to see that 
nature was to man not as .a thing apart, but part 
and parcel of him, a helpmeet without whose 
counsel he would be a blind guide, a stumbler in 
the dark. 

The Spring days hurried by with chirrup of 
birds and the carol of larks in the daisy-dappled 
meadows. Spending his time mostly in the for- 
est, Jerome saw little of Maxine — ^then only for 
a few moments when business took him to An- 
sonville — ^but his love for her grew steadily into 
a consuming passion, pure as a snow-drift 
Without her, his life would Ipse its day-star. 

One morning, as he was supervising some 
work by the roadside, a sound of galloping hoofs 
was borne to his ears. It came from the direction 
of Ansonville. Suddenly out ot the volleying 
dust leaped a pony and rider. The rider was a 
woman and her long, fair hair, having become 
unclasped, sprayed wildly about her shoulders. 
She clung desperately to the pony's neck. Close 
behind her galloped a powerful black horse. 



138 The Girdle of the Great 

whose rider was evidently essaying to overtake 
the pony. In a moment the foremost rider was 
near Jerome. 

With a swift bound he grasped the pony's 
bridle, and swung upon it with all his power. 
Despite his strength and weight, he was dragged 
several yards before he could check the pony. He 
recognized with a start that its rider was Maxine. 
"Why, Maxine?" he exclaimed. "What?" 

"Oh, Mr. Watkins," she gasped; then she 
fainted. 

Calling two of the hands, Jerome bade them 
hold the pony, while he lifted her from the sad- 
dle. He tenderly laid her on the pine straw by 
the roadway and dashed some water in her face. 
He also rubbed her hands gently. 

Meantime the other rider had reined in his 
horse, turned and ridden back. As he halted, 
Jerome recognized Gabe Allen, and, bounding 
forward, cried: "Wretcn! what does this 
mean ?" 

He pointed a quivering finger at the white 
figure by the roadway. 

"Nothing, so far as I am concerned," retorted 
Gabriel with brazen insolence. "It is a legal holi- 
day and I am on m> way to my father's. I think 
I have the right to ride over the highway. About 
a mile below here I rode up close behind the 
pony; and for some reason it took fright and 
dashed oif. That's all I know about it, and I 
don't see that I am under any obligations to tell 
you even that much." 

"You'll be under obligations to remain here 
till I hear Miss MacDonald's side of the ques- 




The Gisdle of the Great 139 

tion/* said Jerome, coolly drawing his pistol and 
pointing it at Gabriel. "And if you are not 
exonerated of having purposely frightened her 
horse, I'll jerk you from that saddle and thrash 
you like the dog that you are." 

Gabriel's thin, cruel lip curled with scorn. "So 
you've turned Lord Protector, eh?" he snarled. 
"You'd better get one for yourself before an- 
other gang of niggers thrashes you." 

"When you say that, you are an infamous 
liar !" cried Jerome, white with rage. "You hired 
them to mutiny against me, and didn't have the 
courage to stand by them. You paid their way 
to Georgia to keep them from being prosecuted. 
You were afraid to face the music" — 

Jerome started to say something else, but 
Maxine's voice arrested him. "Take me home, 
please, Mr. Watkins," she faltered. 

"Miss Maxine," he broke in, "did this villian 
purposely frighten your horse ? Did he frighten 
you?" 

"He rode up behind me suddenly — ^the pony be- 
came frightened and ran away — I couldn't con- 
trol him — I do not think — I do not know that 
Mr. Allen did this purposely — I had started to 
ride." 

She gazed up at Jerome, as she sat on the pine- 
straw, her face still white, her voice tremulous 
with excitement. 

"You may go now," said Jerome, beckoning 
to Gabriel. "It is well for you that this was an 
accident" 

"Fine words, my Lord Protector 1" hissed Ga- 
briel as he cut his horse. "We shall see each other 



ft 



140 The Girdle of the Great 

later. Good-day, Miss Maxine," he called, turn- 
ing in his saddle when he had ridden a little 
way ; "I regret that this accident occurred. I as- 
sure you it was unintentional on my part." 

Then he stiffly galloped on his way. "Foiled 
again," he muttered. "Damn this way of trying 
to do like the novels say. The shoe always gets 
on the wrong foot." 

Very tenderly Jerome helped Maxine into her 
saddle, and set out to lead her horse back to An- 
sonville. 

"It was so brave of you to stop my pony," said 
Maxine, letting one of her fair hands rest- softly 
upon Jerome's broad shoulder as he fell back a 
little near her side. "And were you not injured? 
she queried, solicitously. "I'm afraid you were. 

"Oh, no," he hastened to interpose. "I was 
just bruised a little." 

He raised his sleeve a few inches, disclosing a 
long bruise where the skin had been rubbed off 
by the rein. "It amounts to nothing." 

"Oh!" she exclaimed sympathetically, "you 
must let me bind it up when we get to Ansonville. 
To think I should have been so foolish as to ride 
a new pony two miles in the country!" 

"To think that that scoundrel should have fol- 
lowed you and dashed up suddenly behind you. 
That would frighten any spirited horse." 

"We'll not speak of that any more," she said 
sweetly, anxious to calm Jerome's temper. "It's 
all over now and can't be helped." 

When they reached Ansonville she insisted that 
Jerome should accompany her to the banker's 
house and let her bind up his wounded arm. He 




The Girdlb of the Great 141 

argued that he was in his workday's attire, but 
all in vain. His plea that the banker objecttd to 
his presence in his home was promptly waived 
aside. "Surely," she said, "my uncle will make 
this an exception. I don't believe you want to 
go with me," she added with a pretty pout. That 
settled the matter. Jerome would have gone then 
through a fiery furnace. 

Finally they were in the banker's house. "And 
now to my surgery," said Maxine playfully, in- 
dicating an easy chair. She brought a dainty 
handkerchief and a bottle of Witch Hazel. 
"Bare your arm, sir," she ordered with medical 
dignity. 

Jerome obeyed. 

"Ah ! it's worse than I thought," she exclaimed, 
pityingly, touching the bruised spot tenderly with 
the tips of her fingers. "The flesh is lacerated 
in one place, where the edge of the rein cut in." 

She poured some of the Witch Hazel on the 
soft handkerchief and gently wound it about his 
arm. Then she took a bit of thread and tied it 

"You've bound and bewitched me," he 
laughed. "But you haven't tied that thread tight 
enough." 

She leaned over to tie it more firmly, and he 
suddenly kissed her fragrant hair (at the very 
moment Mr. MacDonald passed by, and, glanc- 
ing through the window, beheld the scene). 

"What do you mean, sir?" she cried, striving 
hard to appear angry. 

"That I always pay my doctor's bills," Jerome 
replied merrily. "And you will have to pay a 
lawyer's bill, too," replied Mr. MacDonald, who 



% 



142 The Girdle of the Great 

had entered unobserved. His eyes were blazing 
with rage. His thin lips quivered. His florid 
face was livid. He strode to and fro like a 
pampered tiger. 

"Oh, uncle, he saved my life!" Maxine cried, 
springing up in alarm. The banker waived her 
aside. "Get out !" he said to Jerome. 

"It is your house," observed Jerome coolly. 
"And a man's house is his castle. It is necessary 
for me to heed you here, but not elsewhere," he 
added meaningly. Then with a bow to Maxine, 
he turned and left the room, quickly crossing the 
threshold into the street 



The Girdle of the Great 143 



CHAPTER XX. 
the coming of the college president. 

It created quite a stir in the river section when 
It was announced that the distinguished Doctor 
Bowman, President of Forest College, would de- 
liver an address at the l^ee Dee Acadepy. Doc- 
tor Bowman bore the reputation of being both 
scholarly and eloquent, the latter of which quali- 
fications alone was always sufficient to draw a 
crowd there. 

When the appointed day arrived, the Academy 
fairly overflowed with folk of all ages, classes 
and conditions. Babies and numerous nonde- 
script canines — ^howlers and growlers — were es- 
pecially in evidence. 

Jerome — ^who of course could not allow such 
an opportunity to pass — remarked, to his almost 
infinite delight, that Maxine was in the audience. 
The banker seldom neglected an opportunity to 
get something for nothing-^-even educational 
rare-bits, though he did not bank much on edu- 
cation beyond the figure-line. 

At length Doctor Bowman arose. In his hands 
was an open Bible. He was a medium-sized, 
spare-built man of perhaps fifty. There was an 
exceedingly benevolent expression in his clear 
blue eyes. His high, intellectual forehead, well- 



144 The Girdle of the Great 

chiseled nose and flowing, reddish-brown beard 
gave him something of the profile of a Greek 
^ philosopher. His voice was soft and slightly 
nasal; but the auditors hung on his words with 
almost breathless silence. There was about him 
an indefinable charm, a subtle magnetism. And 
you listened because you had absolutely no choice 
in the matter — ^as one hypnotized by superior: 
power. 

He read the first chapter of First Peter, and, 
after a brief, earnest prayer, announced as his 
theme the thirteenth verse: "Wherefore gird 
up the loins of thy mind." 

Jerome's eyes instantly sought Maxine's. They 
gazed at each other wonderingly. It was the 
theme they had so often discussed, yet never 
sought in Scripture. Its very appositeness was 
startling. 

Doctor Bowman first referred to Peter, the 
author of the Epistle, as a great, strong man of 
the sea, saying that he was the one disciple typi- 
cal of physical strength; that he knew what it 
was to gird one's loins for the toil of the sea ; and 
that, applying the figfure to the mind, the apostle 
had besought the men of all ages to be mentally 
strong. 

"Peter," said the speaker, "was an unlearned 
man, but one who realized the importance of in- 
tellectual discipline and development. He was 
not a narrow-minded man. The uncultured are 
not always narrow. 

"It might also be true," suggested the speaker, 
"that the writer referred to the custom of gird- 
ing one's loins in the Grecian games held at 



I 



The GntDLK of thb GREAt 145 

Corinth and elsewhere. In these struggles for 
the wreath of laurel one needed to be well girded. 
How much more do we require the girding of 
our mental loins to enter the great struggle of 
life ! Our success depends upon our preparation 
— ^absolutely upon our preparation. 

"And I will first take up the meaning of edu- 
cation. It is a common and current error that 
Education means to create brains. Not all the 
colleges and schools in the universe, working to- 
gether harmoniously till the end of time, could 
create one ounce of brain. The province of Exlu- 
cation is to discover and to develop; to poHsh; 
to sharpen ; to lead out the Giant Intellect from 
the dormant vale of Mental Mist. We have 
slumbered too long in North Carolina. We must 
gird up the loins of our minds, if we are to keep 
pace with the stride of the States. The watch- 
word of the age is 'Educate or perish.' In that 
grand race of civilization, let us not be laggards. 
We have the material (from the shingly shores 
of the East to the blue border of the western 
mountains we may boast a rugged race, strong as 
the Vikings ; sturdy as the dwellers on the Scot- 
tish hills) and let us use it — ^not abuse it — ^giving 
to everyone the chance to gird his mind for the 
irrepressible conflict." 

Jerome's eyes were flashing. His bosom 
heaved. He half rose from his seat, bending to- 
ward the speaker as if drawn by irresistible mag- 
netism. 

"Our duty demands it of us," the speaker ran 
on. "No man has the right to stop short of his 
utmost capacity. We owe it to ourselves and to 



146 The Girdle of the Great 

our fellows to make the most of every oppor- 
tunity. And in this connection I wish to say 
that we can render no higher service to God than 
to continue our benefactions to the Negro Race. 
While the negro must not seek to infringe upon 
the social rights and instincts of the white man, 
let him have fully and freely the opportunity to 
make the most of himself educationally. Educa- 
tion does not and cannot, to use an expression 
with which you are all familiar, 'let down the 
bars' to social equality. Education is one thing; 
social equality is quite another thing. The white 
man would have everything to lose and nothing 
to gain by Social Equality. But it is none the 
less the duty of the white man to give to the 
weaker race a chance to establish an educational 
equality of its own, in which every educated 
negro shall be the equal socially of every other 
educated negro — if that definition is desired. 
And it should be strongly impressed upon the 
negro that Education is not something to elevate 
him above work, but something to prepare him 
for better work. His mind should be tlwroughly 
disabused of the idea that Exiucation is an end, 
and enabled to grasp the great underlying truth 
that it is, and can, be only a means — sl girding of 
the mental loins. 

"Young gentlemen," concluded the scholarly 
President, after other thoughtful remarks along 
racial lines, "it is your privilege to be, in the 
highest and holiest sense, men (men of the fields, 
it may be ; of the flocks if need be) men of honor 
and power. Prepare yourselves well for the op- 
portunities and responsibilities of citizenship. 



t 



. The Girdle of the Great 147 

Upon your strong shoulders shall rest soon the 
burdens of the Republic. About your sturdy 
bins shall be clasped soon the girdle of your 
fathers. I beseech you to wear them worthily as 
your fathers have done ; to make good your heri- 
tage ; to strengthen the pillars of prosperity in the 
Temple of Peace. 

"And finally" — ^by some chance the doctor's 
bright eyes suddenly turned on Jerome twin rays 
of thrilling light — "I bid you gird up the loins 
of your minds to enter that race which is to the 
swift, and that battle which is to the strong. 
For the day shall soon dawn in North Carolina 
when to be slow shall be provincial, and to be il- 
literate an archaism." 

The doctor resumed his seat amid the reverent 
silence with which his auditors had greeted Lim, 
and which they had given him throughout the 
hour. He had made a profound impression. 
Many of the farmers present had never before 
seen Education in that light. To the majority of 
them it had been hitherto a "dry" subject — k 
skeleton — devoid of life and interest. He had 
made the dry bones live. Some of the auditors 
had even felt that to educate their children was 
to cast a stigma upon the old farm. They saw 
now that the one great purpose of the schools and 
colleges was to win the boys back to rather than 
to wean them from the soil ; that it was not really 
true that the institutions of learning were respon- 
sible for the overcrowded professions; that the 
young men who were to succeed in the future in 
farming, or in any other avocation, required the 
strength of brain as well as the strength of 



148 The Girdle of the Great 

brawn. These farmers were not men of great 
culture, but they were men of great capacity. 
And, better still, they were never known to deny 
the Truth to its face. If they harbored Ignor- 
ance, they never wilfully hobnobbed with it 
There were great veins of honesty underlying 
their rugged exterior like the veins of gold run- 
ning through their native hills. When their con- 
sciences approved any course, they stood like 
granite — silent as the stone; just as firmly. The 
doctor's address was, therefore, fruitful for years 
to come. 

In Jerome had been kindled a strong desire to 
enter college at once. When the opportunity 
presented itself, he approached the college presi- 
dent and apprised him of that desire. He re- 
ceived every encouragement, including the prom- 
ise of a situation, which would enable him to con- 
tinue his course without interruption. He was 
in high spirits when he finally turned away to 
seek Maxine. He found her, to his consterna- 
tion, closely guarded by her uncle and Gabriel 
Allen, and simply bowed and passed on, a trace 
of bitterness in the chalice of his joy. Gabriel 
had been with her quite often of late. Jerome 
had been unable to obtain from Maxine a satis- 
factory explanation; but she had hinted that it 
was the earnest desire of Mr. MacDonald that 
she should not refuse Gabriers company. 

Two weeks later Jerome was ready to go to 
Forest College. During this interval he had not 
seen Maxine, though he had made every effort to 
do so. She was always out, or indisposed, or 
asleep, or otherwise too much engaged to see him. 



i 



The Girdle of the Great 149 

For some reason, or no reason, or a woman's 
reason, Jerome was repeatedly denied the 
pleasure of her presence; and this was silently 
eating out his heart. His face was thinner than 
usual and very pale. His manner was nervous. 
In brief, his whole attitude was one of gaunt 
misery and despair, but slightly illumined by the 
flaming cressets of ambition, which still shone in 
his dark eyes. 

"What's de matter wid you, Marse Romey?" 
asked Old Sam, coming upon Jerome as he was 
standing at the big gate one evening, gazing off 
in the direction of Ansonville, "you looks lak 
you'se got trouble in yo' min'. 

"Now, honey, des tell yo' ole nigger what's 
bin er fotchin' you doun' so," he said tenderly, 
drawing nearer. His wrinkled old face was a 
charcoal-sketch of honest sympathy. No wom- 
an's voice was ever tenderer than that in which 
he betrayed his deep devotion to the son of his 
old master. 

"Nothing much. Uncle Sam — ^just hate to leave 
home, I reckon," said Jerome at length. 

"Gawd bless you, chile, fer lubin' yo' home. 
Dat Bill uv mine's done sot 'is hede 'ginst eber 
comin' back. He sez de school whar 'e's at 
teaches niggers ter be 'fessional men — dat he 
aint gwine ter come back ter de f 'am en be lak 
po' white trash. I finks 'e's dun turned er fool, 
dat's w'at I does." The old man emphasized 
the statement by a sudden contraction of his 
brows. 

"You must take good care of father and mother 
while I'm gone, Uncle Sam. They've depended 



150 The Girdle of the Great 

so much on me, you know." Jerome had ignored 
the reference to Bill and turned the second 
weightiest matter from his heart. 

"Des lis'n at dat sassy boy! In co'se Ise 
gwine ter tek keer uv'm. W'ensumever didn't dis 
nigger do dat? He done it 'fo' you wuz bo'n. 
Marse Romey, you orter be 'shamed uv yo'se'f 
fer ev'n sayin' dese words uv 'spishunashun 
'bout de po' ole nigger." He paused and contem- 
plated Jerome with an air of offended dignity. 

"Oh, yes, I know you'll do it. Uncle Sam," 
Jerome hastened to interpose. "I just thought 
I'd like to hear you say you would. It does one 
good to hear you say such things." 

"Doan go off now an' larn ter 'spise de plan* 
tation, Marse Romey," the old man said ad- 
monishingly as Jerome turned to go; "doan go 
off an' fergit de ole nigger, kase 'e's gwine ter 
lub you ter de en', ter de en'." 

"I shall learn to love the plantation better and 
I shall never forget you, Uncle Sam — ^no, not till 
I am too unworthy to remember how they said 
you stood by my mother in the dark war-days," 
responded Jerome with feeling. "And you shall 
not find a lack of friendship while one of our 
blood lives. I only wish everybody were as true/* 
he muttered m6odily as he went up the walk. 



The Guu^le of the Great 151 



CHAPTER XXL 

MAJOR GRAVES GOES SOUTH. 

Major Creighton Graves seldom spoke at 
random. When he told Q)lonel Watkins that he 
was coming South on a fishing expedition, he 
meant precisely what he said. Accordingly one 
bright June day saw him alight from the train 
at Ansonville. The Major was slightly grayer 
than on his first trip, but his step was brisk and 
his manner alert. His kindly eyes had in them 
the twinkling good humor of a man who has 
started a-fishing. Being overladen with his lug- 
gage, he accosted a sleek young negro, who was 
standing nearby on the platform, saying : "Here, 
boy, take my baggage." 

The negro instantly flew into a passion. "Who 
are you talking to, white man ?" he cried, rolling 
his eyes and lips in utter disdain and disgust. 
"Does I look like a waiting boy? I'll have you 
to know, sir, that I'm Mr. William Watkins !" 

"You are an impudent scoundrel!" cried the 
Major, throwing his baggage to the ground, "and 
I'll teach you something that you won't soon for- 
get." 

But Bill did not wait for that lesson. He 
turned and fled from his would-be assailant with 
marvelous swiftness. His swallow-tail coat 



t 
1 

« 

J 

t 

r 



15a The Gisdle of the Great « 

fairly floated in the breeze as he sought the shel- 
ter of a distant negro cabin. He almost shook 
the door oif its hinges. 

"What in de Lord's name is de matter wid 
you, nigger?" cried an old woman, looking up 
from her wash tub. 

Bill hurriedly explained the situation. 

"Funny thing for a Yankee to do," he ran on; 
"mighty curious." 

"Everyting's cur'us to er cur'us nigger, Bill. 
En hit's gwineter git mo' cur'user if you don't 
'have yo'se'f. Dese white fo'ks am all right 
twell er a sassy nigger gits um all wrong. We 
nebber had no sich foolishness fo' de war. I'll 
bet er poun' uv soap you'se quit b'leevin' in 
hants, an dat you aint got de lef hin' foot uv 
grabe-ya'd rabbit in yo' pocket." 

"Aw, you obstruct my sagacity," retorted Bill, 
pulling a cigar from his pocket and sandwiching 
it between his thick lips. 

"You can't consult me in my house, nigger," 
cried the old woman, wrath fully wringing a towel 
from the suds, "an' me poUy at dat. You've 
done gone an' unsot my nervousness so much dat 
I'll hab ter insult de Doctor. Git out'n heah, you 
biggity nigger!" she cried with a fresh outburst 
of wrath, "I ain't gwineter stan' yo' sass if I is 
yo' own aunt." 

Bill sauntered off up the street, muttering: 
"That's how much a colored lawyer is appre- 
ciated in the South." 



Major Graves was warmly welcomed at River- 
wood, every member of the Colonel's family ex* 




The Girdle of the Great 153 

tending him that hearty hospitality for which the 
South is famous. "Glad to see you, sir, glad to 
see you, sir," exclaimed the Colonel, forgetting 
momentarily the twinge of rheumatism which for 
several days had kept his face awry. "The sight 
of you does my eyes good. And rheumatism or 
no rheumatism, I'm going a-fishing with you. I 
hope you have brought plenty of rods, reels, 
tackle, etc." 

"Yes, and I wanted a rod to tackle an impudent 
negro over at Ansonville this morning worse 
than Richard III. wanted a horse," said the 
Major. He related the incident to the Colonel. 

"Oh, yes — Bill, Sam's son," exclaimed the 
Colonel. "That shows the folly of educating a 
negro's head. It always g^ves him the big-head. 
He came over here the other day and Sam 
thrashed him before he had been on the place an 
hour. 

"But," the Colonel ran on, "I have never been 
more surprised than by the change wrought at 
Tuskeegee Institute in his brother Ben. He's 
come t^ck to the plantation respectful, honest, 
and industrious. He's down yonder now plow- 
ing com — ^the Colonel jerked his thumb toward 
the river-bottom — and I really believe the In- 
dustrial Institute will make a smart negro of 
him." 

"That has always been my idea of educating 
the negro," said the Major, "such education as 
Bill has received is but the sowing of dragon's 
teeth. It will never benefit the neg^ and will 
prove a curse to the South. I have heard much 
about the persecution of the negro; I think it's 



154 The Girdle of the Great 

about time we are hearing something of the per* 
secution of the white man. I am fully persuaded 
that there is on the part of the best citizens of 
the South no disposition to treat the negro un- 
fairly." 

"You are right, sir," replied the Colonel; "we 
of the South most emphatically deny that we de- 
sire the negro mistreated or in any way op- 
pressed. Lynch-law is universally condemned 
by our best citizens through their chief executives, 
judges, juries, and ministers of the Gospel. 
When crime has been committed, the officers of 
the law act promptly, without passion or preju- 
dice. The negro criminal is afforded the same 
protection afforded the white criminal. 

"But while we propose to treat the negro 
fairly in every relation of life, we have nevertihe- 
less firmly and finally decreed that he shall not 
be the subject of social honor and elevation at 
the hands of the white man. Why should the 
white man lower himself to lift up the negro? 
What has the negro to give in exchange for 
social equality ? Social equality has one tendency 
and only one — (it has been true of all collateral 
races) race-amalgamation. The blending of a su- 
perior with an inferior race means the preserva- 
tion of all the vices of the one with the weaken- 
ing of all the virtues of the other. The negro's 
ui-lift must come from within. You cannot 
strengthen sand with steel." 

Jerome, who had been hastening his prepara- 
tions to enter Forest College, was sitting with 
them on the veranda. He could scarcely suppress 
an exclamation of delight at his father's strong 



i 



The Girdle of th|£ Great 155 

•nentality. He had known him as a polished gen- 
tleman, and as a thoughtful student of affairs. ^ 

He had never before seen him in the role of a 
philosopher. 

Major Graves, too, betrayed his admiration of 
the Qjlonel's keen introspective ability. 

"You reason well, sir," he exclaimed heartily; 
'but how, for the sake of argument, can the negro 
develop those qualities that he does not possess? 
We learn from astronomy that living bodies 
spring from the impact of dead suns. But how 
can a race sunk in the stupor of the ages rise 
without help to the high seat of civilization and 
culture? How otherwise can this dead sun, 
veiled in the mists of centuries, eclipsed with ig- 
norance and blackened with immorality, shine in 
the sky of nations?" 

The Major had unwittingly grown eloquent. 
Though a merchant, he might have been a mas- 
ter of rhetoric. The Colonel made no immediate 
reply. His blue eyes had a far-off expression. 

"Strength is either the result of the blending 
of strong forces or the union of weak forces," 
he said at length. "The amalgamation of these > 
two races in question would be a worthless hybrid 
— such as you often see in the South to-day, sirr 
In him you have the type of a race far inferior to 
the white man, a stirrer up of race-antipathy, a 
satire in black and white. Whatever of progress 
the world has made is due to the Caucasian race. 
The intellectuality of Asiatics, for instance, while 
undeniable, is a dreamy, namby-pamby sort of 
stuff, exhaling itself in Rubaiyats of rose-red- 
dened dawns and wine-flushed goblets. America 



156 The Girdle of the Great 

has wrought what Europe has attempted and 
Asia has dreamed. 

"To establish a Social Equality between the 
collateral races would be to fall behind the 
Asiatic, to give the pennant of progress forever 
to the Europeans/' 

"I am bitterly opposed to Social Equality; I 
would not tolerate it for a thousandth part of a 
second," interposed the Major kindly but em- 
phatically. "I was only suggesting that possibly 
the South had not paid sufficient attention to the 
negro's development." 

"You think, then. Major, that more attention is 
pa;d to this in the North ?" queried the Colonel, 
with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. 

"Yes, sir." 

"Then you are more unjust to the negro than 
we are." 

"Why?" 

"Because you take him away from work to 
educate him, and then give him nothing to do. 
You refine him sufficiently to ride in your cars, 
but you won't help him pay his fare. We em- 
ploy him in preference to the German and the 
Swede ; and our laborers will work with him. A 
white barber, for example, stands a poor chance 
in the same town with a negro barber. 

"Sam !" called the Q)lonel as the old negro en- 
tered the gate. "Go and dig us some bait We 
want to go fishing after dinner." 

"Yas^v-, dat I will, Marse Gawj," the old man 
answered with alacrity. "An' I'll git de bes' 
fishin' wu*ms on dis plantashun fer ye." 

He shuffled off eagerly in search of a grub- 



The Girdle of the Great X57 

bing-hoe. "Marse Gawj," he cried suddenly, 
facing about, "I'se gwineter dig plenty uv yeth- 
wu'ms; but young ho'nits is de bes' pearch-bait 
eber invinted fer fisheniiens. An' I knows right 
whar I kin git 'er nesM Yassir, right down 
yon'er in de ole goose-plum tree." 

"All right, get them for us," cried the Colonel. 
Old Sam double-quicked it around the comer of 
the house. 

^'That's the best negro that ever lived," re- 
marked the ColoneL "He's never given me a 
bit of trouble. He's worked his youth out for 
me, and now he's giving me his old age. God 
bless his old black hide. I wouldn't give him 
for the richest gold-mine in North Carolina. I 
would divide my last crust of bread with him." 

About three hours later the Colonel, the 
Major and Jerome might have been seen seated 
in a canoe near the mouth of the Uttle creek 
which emptied into the Pee Dee. The afternoon 
was beautiful for fishing ; a soft southerly breeze 
fanned the water into silvery ripples. A stress of 
bird calls rose from leafy retreats along the 
shore. From Dr. Allen's plantation a negro song 
floated clear and sweet over the river, its refrain 
being: 

Oh! UT David, play on 

Yo' harp; 
LiT David play on yo' harp, 

Li'r David; 
LiT Da-a-a-a-a-v-i-A" 

'^j, that's a good one 1" exclaimed the Cob- 



158 The Girdle of the Great 

nel, adroitly paying out his line, then tightening 
it with a sudden jerk. And sure enough, it 
proved to be a big hump-backed "robin," as the 
sun perch is called in some sections. The Q)lo- 
nel removed him from the hook and cast him 
into the basket with an Izaak Walton smile. 

The Major's and Jerome's hooks remained 
idle. 

The negro's song came floating out again: 

"Some tim' up, an' some tim' down. 
Some tim' crawlin' on de groun'." J 

"Oh ! liT David, play on yo' harp, 1 

LiT David, play on yo' harp, 

LiT David, D-a-a-a-v-i-d 1" 

The song served to recall what the Major had 
in mind when the Colonel received his big bite. 

"I was just thinking how badly you need 
skilled labor in the South, Colonel," he remarked. 

"Yes," observed the Colonel, "we need it 
sadly. But we shall be forced to take time to 
make the negro a skilled laborer. He is our in- 
dustrial mainstay. You all won't hire him in the 
North. We prefer him to foreigners." 

"Granting that that is true (and you mustn't 
think me a fault-finder, my dear friend), don't 
you Southern planters bank rather more on the 
quantity of the land you cultivate than on the 
quality and the skill of your laborers?" 

"Yes," admitted the Colonel frankly, "that is 
the usual case. We cannot remember that Lee's 
surrender reduced our four-horse plantations to 
one-horse farms. Less acreage and more efficient 



I 



The Girdle of the Great 159 

cultivation would work wonders in the South. 
Tenants would soon become land-owners.** 

"By the way, who's our neighbors ?" asked the 
Major, indicating a newly-arrived canoe contain- 
ing a couple of fishermen. 

The Colonel strained his eyes. "They are 
Doctor Allen and Mr. MacDonald, as best I can 
see," growled the Colonel ; "that's enough to give 
us the fisherman's luck — we'll catch eels and ter- 
rapins all the evening." 

The words were scarcely spoken when one of 
the occupants of the new boat, in casting his line, 
made a false movement, careening the canoe too 
far to one side. The water rushed in and the 
canoe filled rapidly. The occupants made a fran- 
tic cry of appeal to the other boat as they floun- 
dered about in the water. Neither of them could 
swim. 

"Put me ashore and go to the rescue!" cried 
the Colonel. "You are lighter and stronger." 

Jerome seized his paddle and, turning the boat, 
quickly approached the shore. The Colonel clam- 
bered out on a big rock, wisely realizing that his 
weight and rheumatism would be a serious hand- 
icap. 

A few moments later Jerome and Major 
Graves were on the scene of the disaster. Mr. 
MacDonald with wonderful presence of mind had 
clung to the boat, which had not sunk to the 
bottom of the river. Dr. Allen was floundering 
helplessly in the water. Quickly Jerome put the 
boat alongside the struggling man, and Major 
Graves, reaching over, pulled him with a great 
effort into the boat 



i6o The Girdle of the Great 

Jerome's own hands rescued Mr. MacDonald. 
Both the banker and the doctor were well nigh 
exhausted and could do little more than stare 
blankly at their preservers. When they were 
finally on the shore they gave a great sigh of 
relief. 

The Doctor recovered his voice with a shud- 
dering gasp. How vividly now that night on 
the silent battle-field came back!" — the white 
face, the weak voice, the fearless manner, all 
these had stamped themselves indelibly upon his 
memory. And memory was playing him no 
trick. They came before him again—only 
stronger, that was all. And he would have 
robbed — would have killed the man who had res- 
cued him. He would have thanked the Major 
to let him drown. 

That would have been a kindly fate compared 
to being forced to face the Major under such cir- 
cumstances. 

*T — ^thank — ^you — sir — for — saving — my — 
life," the Doctor gasped, looking on the ground. 

"I have always made it a point to relieve those 
in distress," the Major replied in a manner whose 
very mildness was an edged tool to the Doctor's 
conscience; or, rather, to where his conscience 
ought to be. The Doctor had always relieved tho 
distressed— oi their valuables, 

Mr. MacDonald was not a whit less embar- 
rassed than Doctor Allen. He had come down 
to Rocky Heights for a little outing, and more 
particularly for a little inning with reference to 
Doctor Allen's pocketbook. He had a large 
scheme on hand. To be rescued from drowning 



\ 



The Girdle op the Great ^ 

by Jerome Watkins was more than he had bar- 
gained for. He also gasped his gratitude and, 
in company with Doctor Allen, dragged his drip- 
ping body toward Rocky Heights. 

The Colonel's party proceeded with their fish- 
ing. 

I told you we'd have fisherman's luck," 
laughed the Colonel; ''we've caught a terrapin 
and an eel.'' 



x63 The Girdle of the Great 




CHAPTER XXIL 

THE PARTING OF THE WAYS. 

Jerome's feelings as he passed the Banker's 
house, on his way to college a few days later, 
without even so much as a glimpse of Maxine, 
can scarcely be imagined Had she proven false 
to him, after all? Was she no better than a 
flirt? An airy belle whose flippant heart and 
head were full of fleeting fancies? Doubtless 
her grand theories about Education and Oppor- 
tunity and the South were but barriers to block 
his way. He knew that women often set im- 
possible standards in order to rid themselves of 
objectionable suitors. He knew equally well 
that some stupid, stylish fop with his small talk 
of races, prize-fights, etc., often captured the af- 
fection denied to men of strength. He recalled 
a verse from Tennyson : 

"As the husband is the wife is ; 
Thou art mated with a clown: 
And the grossness of his nature 
Will have weight to drag thee down." 

Despite his disappointment, however, Jerome 
could not bring himself to fancy Maxine as 
Gabriel's wife. That was too incongruous. Their 



The Girdle of the Great 163 

ideals were utterly dissimilar. It would be like 
the mating of Light and Darkness — ^Treachery 
and Truth — the Dove in the Vulture's nest. 

There was, he admitted, a strain of superior 
mettle in Maxine's character. Otherwise she 
would have allowed Riverwood to pass into alien 
hands. He recalled it all with a thrill of sweet 
and lingering delight. Yes, her's was a choice 
spirit. There was some secret and well-founded 
reason why she refused to see him. The Banker 
could not have turned her against him. 

Her will was too strong to be easily broken. 
All the bankers in Christendom could not break 
that bond of steel. He suddenly resolved not to 
misjudge her. He would treat her fairly. He 
would wait for an explanation of the curt note 
of refusal in response to his own requesting to 
see her. 

The delightful fragrance of summer's last 
roses scented the air. On every hand rose the 
varied sounds of a sleepy country village; the 
rattle and rumble of wagon wheels, the slrouts of 
youngsters, the voices of housewives calling to 
each other across the streets. Between the 
brown and leaden-gray cottages Jerome caught 
broad vistas of the sky, touched here and there 
with the crimson cressets of morning. He drew 
the pure, rich air deeply into his lungs. Every 
muscle quivered with strength; every nerve tin- 
gled with anticipation. It was his Day of Life — 
his day of exodus from driveling toil into the 
wider world of golden hope. His mother's kiss 
seemed to linger yet upon his lips ; his hands still 
ached from Us father's powerful pressure, bid- 



164 The Girdle of the Great 

ding him God-speed. If only Maxine had bid- 
den him good-bye and God-speed! If only she 
had waved her handkerchief, as the fair ladies 
of ancient days had waved their kerchiefs to his 
knightly forebears ! But no — she had failed him 
at the last. He must enter the lists without the 
benison of his Lady Fair. He lifted his eyes 
with resolution and gazed straight ahead. Far 
down the street he saw a woman's figure ap- 
proaching him. She was dressed in white, the 
color he loved best. Her walk was familiar to 
him. How could he forget that easy, graceful 
carriage? And she was not alone. A man oc- 
companied her — a man whom Jerome would 
have spumed with his foot. 

She had spent the night with a girl friend and 
was hurrying home to preside at the Banker's 
breakfast. As she was passing the bank, Gabriel, 
who slept there and took his meals at Mr. Mac- 
Donald's, had come out and joined her. 

To Jerome the meeting seemed prearranged— 
at least, pleasant to the parties. He could not 
see Maxine's frown of impatience. She was 
always rather "offish" in her street attitude, and 
that could tell him nothing. Nor did Gabriel 
notice these little fire-flings. The Banker had 
told him to be patient and persistent. And he 
purposed to be. 

Finally the pedestrians met and passed. Max- 
ine colored, appeared confused, murmured "Mn 
Watkins!" Gabriel scowled savagely, but said 
nothing. Jerome raised his hat stifHy. 

He seemed to have reached the parting of the 
ways, and to have passed on — on into a new 



% 



The Girdle of the Great 165 

•* 
world. The verse from Tennyson rang in his 
cars with maddening mockery. He sighed for 
the waters of Lethe that he might drink and 
forget. 

Before him seemed to rise a spirit with flam- 
ing torch. Emblazoned on her glistening robe 
was "Progress." Her face was to the fu- 
ture. In this creature of fancy he recognized the 
Genius of the New South. To her should be 
given his faith — ^his allegiance — for her he would 
Hve and die. She at least would be true to her- 
self and to him. She held the heart strings of 
a mighty people. Beneath the silvery strains of 
her Orphean lute the trees that thickened and 
throttled and darkened the mental realm of his 
native state would leave their places to move as 
men in the mighty processional of master minds. 
And no longer would it be left for the blindest 
cynic to sneer in piping, sour tone: "I see men 

as trees walking." 

♦ * * 4c ♦ ♦ ♦ 

In due time Jerome arrived at Forest College. 
It was a bvely place, even as a painter or a poet 
would count loveliness. 

Stately, classical-looking trees rose like masts 
from the emerald, grassy billows of the rolling 
campus. They were, indeed, survivors of th^ 
primeval forest— druidic oaks to hold the youth 
of the state in close communion with "ye olden 
Htne^' — ^shadowing spirits of strength and bene- 
diction. Cone-shaped magnolias dotted the 
P^rotmds, half screening rustic seats whereon am- 
bitious, youth might con poetic Virgil or pour 
dulcet odes into the ear of listening Beauty. The 



i66 The Gisdle of the Geeat 

buildings were all of red brick and so grouped 
together as to suggest a line of forts. And they 
were forts in which seniors and raw (fresh) re- 
cruits moulded mental bullets to penetrate the 
black battalions of Ignorance. A neat little vil- 
lage stretched away from the college like float- 
ing fibre from a nucleus. 

The streets were wide and flanked with spread- 
ing elms. The houses were for the most part 
old fashioned — set high up with basements. 
Strawberry beds and grape arbors were largely 
in evidence, and specially attractive during the 
fruitful season. 

The villagers were long-suffering, worthy ex- 
amples of patient piety. The expression of their 
faces was like that of a camel. They realized 
that they held their property as a noblesse oblige. 
The students stole their fruit, plundered their 
hen-bouses, and married their daughters. These 
acts were regarded as necessary evils. 

But during vacation season the villagers were 
so lonely that they audibly sighed for some one 
to worry them. They became passive advocates 
of the doctrine of Strenuous Life. 

With no window-panes to replace, and no 
fences to repair, existence waxed wearisome. The 
student was, therefore, regarded somewhat as the 
mosquito— a creature of attractive voice and un- 
pleasant manners, but an unmistakable factor (if 
not benefactor) in life; a creature to correct 
ennui, a creature to appear at the most unac- 
countable times and places, and to invariably dis- 
appear richer than he came. 

Jerome did not know all of these things when 




The Girdle of the Great 167 

he first set foot on the classic soil of Forest Col- 
lege, as he knew them later. He was burden- 
some only to himself. In truth he felt like a 
disjointed unit of the universe. Everything was 
strange to him, and he began to feel lonely. He 
went almost immediately to the president's office. 

Doctor Bowman was busily engaged with a 
batch of letters. He looked up kindly as Jerome 
entered. "Glad to see you, Mr. Watkins!" he 
exclaimed, warmly wringing Jerome's hand. 
"You're just in time to rescue me. I'm up to 
my eyes in correspondence. If you will be kind 
enough to draw your chair up to that desk" — 
the president indicated a small writing-desk at 
his left — "I will let you answer some of my let- 
ters. Do you know shorthand?" 

Jerome regretted that he did not, but he could 
write rapidly and very legibly. He would study 
shorthand if the President desired it. 

Doctor Bowman expressed surprise at the re- 
markable rapidity with which Jerome wrote the 
small, neat italic-looking letters across the pages. 
His writing resembled ancient script. He was 
always thankful that Doctor Bowman put him 
immediately to work. It drove the incipient 
sickness from his heart. 

Next morning he matriculated and entered his 
classes. He found, to his surprise, that he was 
sufficiently far advanced to enter the junior class. 
His preparation at the Pee Dee Academy had 
been thorough. Also he had studied much at 
night 

A few days after his arrival at Forest College 




i68 The Girdle of the Great 

he received a letter which set his heart athrob. It 
was from Maxine and read: 

"My dear Mr. Watkins : 

"You doubtless think strange of my recent 
attitude toward you. But circumstances beyond 
my control rendered it necessary. Some day I 
will fully explain my situation. It is best for you 
that I should not do so now. Do not forget your 
ideal. Live and labor for our New South — ^and 
trust me. 

"Sincerely your friend, 

"Maxine MacDonald." 

Jerome thrust the letter in his pocket with a 
great sigh of disappointment. The mystery 
deepened and darkened. 



X 



v^ 



The Girdle of the Great i6^ 



CHAFl'ER XXIII. 

THE^ COILS OF COMMERCIAUSM. 

Mr. MacDonald sat in his easy chair. In fact, 
Mr. MacDonald's chair was always easy when 
financial figures moved to the melody of his mas- 
ter mind. They pleased him well now. A recent 
venture in the cotton market had brought him 
handsome returns. The greed of the gambler 
shone in the cold, ice-like glitter of his small, 
shrewd eyes. If he could only run the gauntlet 
of the bears of Wall Street at the present rate 
he would be a millionaire! His heart throbbed 
with the thought. "Um — ^ah!" he exclaimed 
aloud as a magnificent vista of shining yellow 
metal burst on his financial fancy. 

He arose from his chair and nervously paced 
the floor. The figures on the wall paper became 
dollar-marks. He started as a clink of coins 
reached him from the cashier's window. Sounds 
often convey ideas, and Mr. MacDonald was sud- 
denly aware of a very significant idea. Why not 
enlist Gabriel in the enterprise ? Sooner or later 
he would have to do so. The most important 
man in a matter like that was the man behind 
the books. Yes, he must have help. The idea 
burned into Mr. MacDonald's brain till it burned 
out the last coal of his smouldering conscience. 



170 The Girdle of the Great 



% 



i I I'l I 



He wanted to get rich, and to get rich quick. 
The cotton market afforded the best opportunity. 
To the cotton market, therefore, he would go on 
a larger scale than ever. With two to cover his 
tracks who would ever be the wiser? 

He peered cautiously through his wicket to sec 
if the coast was clear, then called Gabriel into his 
office and unfolded his proposition. 

Gabriel accepted it with alacrity. He saw a 
sure road to Maxine's heart; he saw a way to 
get the Banker in his power. Oh ! yes, he would 
persuade his father to make larger deposits; he 
would make false entries ; he would do anything 
that Mr. MacDonald suggested; he had perfect 
confidence in his integrity and sound businei« 
judgment He fairly bubbled over with enthu- 
siasm. 

"YouVe got the right mettle (the Banker 
would have spelled it metal) in you, Gabriel," 
exclaimed Mr. MacDonald with a ring of deep 
satisfaction in his tone. "And you shall have 
Maxine" — ^he gripped his chair and leaned far 
over, his voice sinking to a hoarse whisper — ^"you 
shall have her in spite of h — 11 !" 

"And I will have her in spite of it," said Ga- 
briel, the weak lines about his mouth hardening 
to something like strength; "and in spite of all 
the Watkinses between here and there." 

m ^ ^ 4( ♦ ♦ 4k 

Gabriel and Mr. MacDonald had little difficulty 
in persuading Doctor Allen that the deposit of a 
certain amount of money, which had recently 
come into his possession, was necessary to a 



The Girdle of the Great 171 

shrewd deal in mining land. The money was 
promptly put on the GDtton Exchange. 

"I'll tell you, old Mac's a good one," the Doc- 
tor would say to Gabriel when he inquired about 
his bank account and found it unexpectedly large. 
'*But we must watch him. He's slick as an eel. 
But he's not a bit slicker than your daddy at that. 
He'll find out that he can't pull the wool over 
my eyes." 

"We're getting the old man on the string," the 
Banker would laughingly remark to Gabriel. 
"We'll make him rich while he sleeps. He'll 
wake up to find himself a millionaire." 

One day when Mr. MacDonald needed a cer- 
tain amount of money to meet a bellow of the 
Bulls he sold his interest in the Brandon place to 
Doctor Allen for a sum far below the Doctor's 
expectations. 

The little man was almost beside himself with 
joy. "Gabriel," he confided, "I've made the deal 
of my life. Old Mac's sold me the Brandon 
Place. Watkins's claim can be contested. I'm 
satisfied that I can" — he dropped his voice to a 
whisper — ^"manage the jury. Go it, boy, and 
keep on the good side of Old Mac. I'll set you 
up some day." 

Gabriel tried hard to seem elated at the pros- 
pect. He smiled dryly, and assured his father 
that he would do his best to keep in the good 
graces of the Banker. 

Phenomenal success rewarded the Banker's 
speculation in cotton futures. He climbed higher 
and higher on the giddy, glittering pinnacle. 



172 The Girdle of the Great 

Everything seemed to be coming his way. He 
indulged dreams of a gigantic manufacturing 
trust — Si trust that would control the output of 
the Southern States. He would be its president, 
its dictator, its demi-god. 

While this dream was at its height Gabriel left 
the cashier's window and entered the banker's 
sanctum. 

"Say, Mr. MacDonald," he broke in almost ab- 
ruptly, "I've just been wondering what my share 
in this speculation is to be. I want to have an 
understanding with you about it. The chickens 
are beginning to pip their shells now, and I 
want to know how many are to occupy my coop." 

"Oh, well, we'll come to some terms about 
that," replied the Banker quietly; "we'll just be 
partners for the present and divide up later. Let 
the chickens stay together 'till they are well 
grown." 

"But that don't satisfy me," persisted Gabriel. 
"I must have some definite understanding about 
it There are too many twists and turns in money 
matters. You've got to name your dollars nowa- 
days before you can claim 'em." 

"How about five hundred dollars?" queried 
the Banker tentatively. 

"Five hundred devils !" cried Gabriel, red with 
rage. "Do you think I am on charity?" 

"No, but that seems to me a first-rate fee for 
what you have done— only a little soliciting from 
your father." 

"Well, you'll double it or I'll have my father 
soliciting some funds from you," retorted Ga- 
briel. 




The Girdle of the Great 173 

The Banker trembled and lost color. "Why, I 
was only joking you," he said. "I never expected 
to offer you less than one thousand. And you 
may have that to-day if you want it." 

"Oh, no," replied Gabriel, "I don't need it; I 
just wanted an understanding about it. I'm per- 
fectly satisfied to have it here." 

After this the Banker and Gabriel became more 
intimate than ever. The shining coils of com- 
mercialism clasped them more and more tightly 
'till every sense of honor was deadened. And 
they played their desperate game for all it was 
worth. 



174 The Girdle of the Great 



I 



CHAPTER XXrV. 

THE MANIA OF THE MOB. 

Two years had passed rapidly. Jerome had 
graduated with honor at Forest College. He 
had, it is true, taken neither the valedictory nor 
the salutatory, but he had won a medal for the 
best essay, his subject being, **The Needs of the 
New South/' 

This article had been so highly esteemed by a 
distinguished Northern editor, selected as one 
of the Committee to award the prize, that he had 
subsequently published it in one of the leading 
magazines of the country. 

It was a beautiful, balmy June day when Jer- 
ome left Forest College for Anson ville. 

He was so anxious to see Maxine, who had 
written him frequently of late, that he could not 
wait for the slow little train to back in to An- 
sonville. Accordingly he jumped off at the "Y," 
and started to walk the remaining quarter of a 
mile. 

His heart was full of hope. All his struggles 
— and they had been severe struggles — ^to com- 
plete his college course were behind him at last 
He had seen little of Maxine these two fleeting, 
yet full, years. He had denied himself the pleas- 



The Girdle of the Great 1:75 

ure of her presence, meaning to demand interest 
for the future. In a hasty interview she had 
told him why she had formerly refused to sec 
him. It was merely to test him and to secure for 
him a season of peace, during which he might 
pursue his studies without interruption from 
Gabriel and the Banker. Jerome had accepted 
that explanation as perfectiy natural and satis- 
factory. 

The Banker's ban still remained. But to-day 
Jerome had determined to disregard it. It was 
the day of his triumph, the day of days when 
Maxine was to give him her promise to be his 
wife. This day love would laugh at bans and 
bankers as it laughed at locksmiths. 

A long lane seemed the past — ^ lane without 
turning, a thorny trail of sacrifice and struggle 
against overwhelming odds. He was nearing 
the end of it now. He could see it merging into 
a broad highway of progress. With Maxine at 
his side he would climb the mountain to the 
Pisgah of the present, that he might gaze across 
the misty vales into the promised land of the 
Future South. 

He could almost see the dreamy bve-light in 
Maxine's eyes. How it would beam upon him! 
How he yearned to see the pearls of purity and 
power in those blue seas! She had refused to 
express her love for him to enable him to com- 
plete his course unhampered — ^that was all. He 
realized it now as never before. She was the 
one woman among a thousand — ^among ten thou- 
sand — 2L woman whose strength had not stolen 
her sweetness. His love had been a passion, tlien 



176 The Girdle of the Great 

a principle. Now it was leaping back to a pu* 
sion deep as the ocean of time — ^to passion prime- 
val, ere the voice of God walked among the Eden 
trees in the cool of the evening. 

Jerome walked rapidly into the village, but 
he found himself wishing that his feet were shod 
with the wings of Hermes. 

The rattle of wheels suddenly averted his at- 
tention. Nearer, nearer it came, lengthening into 
a prolonged whirr. 

His heart almost stopped as the buggy drew 
near. Its occupants were Maxine and Gabriel 
Allen. A moment later they dashed by, Maxine's 
face pinched and pale. She spoke to Jerome as 
they passed, but he heard not, and stared after 
the disappearing buggy with unseeing eyes. A 
little while afterwards an elderly man, whom he 
recognized as the Rev. Peter Colbrem, pastor of 
the Presbyterian Church at Ansonville, drove by, 
going in the same direction Gabriel had taken. 

A sickening sensation gripped Jerome's heart 
What coincidence of fate had flaunted that scene 
in his face both on his departure for, and his 
return from, college? This then was to be his 
reward ? This was her boasted fidelity ! She who 
had set such store by the heritage of her schol- 
arly forebear had finally hugged the golden feet 
of Mammon. Mr. MacDonald had had his way, 
and — oh, irony of fate! — on the very day of 
triumph. All the years of toil, of discourage- 
ment, of defeat, of dearly-bought victory, rose 
up afresh before Jerome. For this he had 
waited and struggled and threaded his way, 
through thorns and thistles, to be deceived, to be 



The Girdle of the Great 177 

jilted for a worthless jade. His heart rebelled 
at the thought. Why not sow the wind and reap 
the whirlwind ! Was life a hidden sting — a fraud 
in flowers? Enough of it; he would be no h)rpo- 
critical bumble-bee posing in pinks and lilies — he 
would come out and sting the world openly, and 
he would leave the sting, leave it to rot and 
rankle in the flesh, if he died for it. But no. he 
reasoned, man was something more than a vin- 
dictive creature with pent-up spleen. He was a 
creature superior to the horned brute and the 
daggered insect. The strength of the modem 
man was not measured by brute blows, nor by 
adroit stings, but by ability to exercise self-con- 
trol. The greater coward was he whose aneer 
mastered him. Then Jerome pulled oflf his hat 
and, baring his head to heaven, resolved th^t he 
would follow the path of honor if all the world 
went false. He resolved to be a gentleman to the 
end of the life-day. 

Late in the evening, foot-sore and weary, he 
reached Riverwood. As he drew near the Big 
Gate old Sam, who was feeding some hogs near- 
by, shambled eagerly forward to meet him. 

"Bress my soul, honey, bress my soul, is dat 
you? 'Dun graduwated an' walked home? Laws- 
a-massy, why didn't you tell us w'en you wuz 
a-cumin' ? Des walkin' home like po' white trash. 
My! My! My!" 

He gathered up Jerome's gripsack. "Wat's 
de matter, is yer sick, Marse Romey," he asked 
suddenly in a tone of uneasiness as he gazed into 
the young man's face. 

"No; how are they all?" Jerbme gasped. 



178 The Girdle of the Great 

"Dey's all well 'cept yo' pa ; he's got de room- 
itiz, er hit's got him, I dunno which!" 

"What's the matter with you, have you been 
sick?" The question sprang spontaneously — 
almost simultaneously from the lips of Jerome's 
family. 

He responded that he was quite well. 

"It's overstudy, then," said the Colonel, rais- 
ing himself, not without a twinge of pain to a 
more comfortable position in his great arm-chair. 
"Major Graves wrote me the other day that he 
was specially anxious for you to make him a 
visit. And, while we regret to give you up so 
soon, my son, I really think it will help you to 
take the trip. It will help you in many ways. 
Every citizen should visit at least the great 
metropolis of his country. In order to know life 
you must see it in all its flood, and feel its ebb 
and flow." 

Jerome heard eagerly what his father had said 
and resolved to accept the Major's invitation in 
person. 

"Things are looking up on the plantation," the 
Colonel continued. "Sam's boy, Ben, has learned 
to be a first-rate farmer. We made more com, 
cotton and tobacco this year than we've ever 
made. Give me that Industral Institute for a 
nigger every time, if it's doing work like the 
transformation of Ben." 

Three days later Jerome reached New York 
City. He had asked nothing about Gabriel and 
Maxine before leaving Ansonville. He had re- 
solved to drop the day of their memory from the 



The Gudle op the Great 179 

calendar of his mind — ^to blot out the fact of 
their existence from the pages of his present,, 
past and future. 

Major Graves was not at the station to meet 
him, but Jerome had his address. He accord- 
ingly hailed a cab, entered an,d settled himself 
comfortably in the seat to review as much as pos- 
sible the buildings along the streets he passed 
down. 

He was awed by the magnitude and magnifi- 
cence of the city — its towering buildings that 
seemed to scrape the sky, its hurrying throngs, 
mingling every nation of the globe in one great 
maddening maelstrom. 

Suddenly a shot rang out and a murmur like 
the belbw of stampeding steers rose from the 
multitude. Jerome's cab stopped abruptly, with 
a jarring jerk. Almost simultaneously he caught 
sight of a fleeing negro, a crowd of whites close 
on his heels. In the negro's hand was a smoking 
revolver. Cries of "Stop him!" "Lynch him! 
"Kill him !" rent the air. But in the negro's left 
hand was a razor and the crowd fell bade before 
him. 

The negro was running straight toward the 
cab in which Jerome was seated and, with a st^rt, 
Jerome recognized that he was Bill, old Sam's 
son. 

The memory of how old Sam had saved him 
from a black mob surged swiftly back to Jerome's 
mind and, leaping from the cab, he stood await- 
ing Bill. 

"Oh, Mr. Jerome, save me! Stop them! Save 
me," panted the negro. Recognizing Jerome, he 



i&> The Gisdle of the Great 

had dashed more quickly forward, his eyes bright 
with terror and vague hope. 

"Throw down that razor, then!" shouted 
Jerome. Bill did as he was bidden, and a seoond 
later stood cowering and trembling at Jerome's 
side. 

"Get in this cab, quick!" cried Jerome, push- 
ing the negro in feet foremost, and closing the 
door with a crash. He had scarcely done so 
when the mob was at his heels. 

Tall, sinewy, strong, he wheeled and faced 
them, deathless determination in his dark eyes, 
his lips like chilled steel. A roar of baffled rage 
rose from the mob — 2l babel of many nations. 
Every man's hand was against the negro— 
against Ishmael, as his hand was against them-^ 
and, white man or no white man, tfiey swore to 
tear the negro from the cab. 

With a courage cool, calculating and deter- 
mined, Jerome quickly told them that they should 
not. One man against a hundred he stood, but 
the living fire that had always lurked in his pool- 
black eyes held the mob in check. There were 
men of greater height and broader girth in the 
mob that day who bowed to his superior will. 

Jerome realized that he could not long con- 
trol the mania of the mob. He was only fight* 
ing for time — 'till the police could rally. 

"Don't you know he's killed an officer?" cried 
a big burly man with a beer bottle. 

"I don't know what he's done," replied Jerome, 
"I only know that the law shall be allowed to 
take its course. I am not trying, to keep him 
from the law, but from the mob." 



The Girdle of the Great i8i 

"Come on, boys, let's swing him, too!" cried 
the big man, leaping forward; "we'll make it a 
double hanging." 

The crowd cheered and followed suit. But the 
big man suddenly received a blow in the face 
which brought him low like the boastful Goliath, 
and Jerome was just preparing to administer the 
same treatment to another one when the mob 
melted away before a score of clubbing police- 
men. 

Jerome quickly threw open the cab-door, pulled 
out and surrendered him to them. 

"They'll see that you have a fair trial," he 
said to the negro, "and if you need any money 
to employ a lawyer I'll get it for you." 

Bill gasped his gratitude. 

"You've got good grit in you, young man, 
whoever you are," said the tall captain of police, 
slapping Jerome on the shoulder. "I wish we 
had you on the force." 

"Thank you," returned Jerome, "I'm glad to 
have been of service to you. I did what I thought 
was right." 

Then the patrol-wagon rattled off, and Jerome, 
entering his cab, proceeded on his way to Major 
Graves's house. 

Next morning a great Metropolitan daily had 
this headline: 

"SOUTHERNER DEFENDS NEGRO FROM 
/ NORTHERN MOB." 

"Eh, what are we coming to, Jerome?" ex- 
claimed Major Graves, holding up the paper. 



I 



iSn The Gisdle of the Gbba; 

'"Southerner defends negro from Northern 
inob!' Did you ever hear of such a thing?*' 

"Yes, I saw it" 

"Saw what, the headline?^ 

"No, the scene." 

"What?" 

"I was there." 

"You?" 

"Yes, I was the Southerner/' replied Jerome 
modestly. 




The GutDLE of the Great i{^ 



CHAPTER XXV. 
''the mills of the gods.'* 

One who chanced to see Mr. Hector MacDon- 
ald on a certain day in July would have noticed 
striking changes in his appearance. His smooth- 
shaven face was thinner than usual and noticeably 
wrinkled and careworn. Much of his cool, cal- 
culating attitude had been lost ; he was almost a 
nervous wreck. The strain of the desperate game 
which he had been playing with fortune and mis- 
fortune had sapped his strength. The Wall 
Street speculations had long been going against 
him; he had reached the ebb of his golden tide. 
Still, like the desperate gambler, he was always 
hoping for a lucky turn, comforting his perturbed 
spirit with original proverbs, such as "It's an ill 
Bear that growls nobody good," etc. 

For another reason, too, the Banker had con- 
tinued to speculate; that whenever one gets en- 
tangled in the intricate meshes of the great Wall 
Street net one never knows how to get out. 

Mr. MacDonald had depended on a fortunate 
rise in cotton. 

**Wt must make a big throw to-day," he said 
to Gabriel one evening. "Everything is ripe for 
It We'll yet make a big haul. What say you?" 

••It's high time we were doing something/^ 



i84 The Girdle of the Geeat 



Sowled Gabriel, who had just received a rdmff 
>m an unexpected quarter and was, therefore, 
in no great good humor. 

Accordingly, the Banker cast his bank bills, or 
the bank bills of his depositors, upon the ''water.** 
He was confident of a "big hauL" He had su* 
preme confidence in "Poindexter & Co.," his 
agents. They were old and reliable. They knew 
all the wiles and whims of the "Bulls and Bears.** 
They had always kept Mr. MacDonald fvSiy 
posted. 

But shortly after this deposit (which was by 
far the largest he had made with them), "Poin* 
dexter & Co." went to the walL The news came 
to Mr. MacDonald like a thunderclap from a clear 
sky. It almost prostrated him. His eyes receded 
in his head, his face became colorless and flabby. 
He knew that he was doomed. The figures on 
the wall-paper of his sanctum changed form 
again ; this time they became bng bars of white 
and black, like the stripes of felons. Almost on 
the heels of the Wall Street disaster the State 
Bank Examiner arrived in Ansonville. He was 
the pale cashier whom Mr. MacDonald had dis- 
charged, and the Banker knew what the rigid 
examination would reveal. 

Owing to the lateness of the train, it was night 
when the Bank Examiner arrived, and the ex- 
amination was, therefore, postponed 'till next 
morning. Mr. MacDonald, having learned from 
Ananias Blake that the Bank Examiner had ar« 
rived, hurriedly summoned Gabriel to his prU 
vate office. 
'*Wc'vc got to get away from here, or else £0 



i 



The Girdle of the Great 185 

to the Penitentiary," said Mr. MacDonald with a 
strangling sigh. "We have only $500 in the 
bank. Let's divide and skip." 

"Hold on, old man," observed Gabriel brutally. 
**You haven't toted fair with me. You got me into 
this business ; you got me to ruin my old daddy, 
luid you ain't offering me but $250 for it. You've 
frequently promised to make Maxine marry me 
and as frequently broken your word. Marriage 
with her is now my only means of getting any 
money. She's got property apart from what 
you embezzled from her" — the Banker's pallid 
face showed a stain of color at this charge — "and 
I am going to have it." 

He suddenly rose and pressed a pistol to the 
Banker's te^mple. "Now, come right along and 
tell that contrary niece of yours what she's got 
to do. I'm a desperate man, and if you cross 
me you die." 

Mr. MacDonald started visibly, his flabby jaw 
dropped, his teeth chattered. "Why — what— has 
— possessed — ^you — Gabriel?" he gasped. 

"The devil — ^you — ^but you don't possess me 
any more. I'm going to be my own boss awhile 
— and Maxine's." 

He took the Banker roughly by the shoulder. 
"Come on and let's fix up the fun. We'll take 
along Ananias Blake, J. P." 

Mr. MacDonald rose tremblingly, picked up his 
hat and followed Gabriel out into the street. 

At the corner they were joined by Ananias 
Blake. Gabriel's stride and that of Ananias was 
steady and strong, the Banker's faltering and 




i86 The Girdle of the Great 

feeble, his cane careening on the loose boards of 
the sidewalk. 

They silently entered the Banker's house like 
black birds of ill-omen. 

Maxine was seated in the parlor reading a 
magazine. She rose stiffly as they filed in. 

"Maxine," the Banker began abruptly, sum- 
moning up all his failing strength, "we've oome 
to marry you to Gabriel." 

"To marry me to Gabriel?" she echoed. "You 
are thoughtful, uncle. It is kind of you to tell 
me. I might not have had time to arrange my 
trousseau." 

Tall and graceful she confronted them, her 
fair cheeks shot through with color. 

"Oh, it don't matter about the trousseau," Ga- 
briel broke in impatiently. "Come, Ananias, get 
your ceremony ready." 

"What ceremony, sir!" Maxine cried, her 
bosom heaving, her eyes blazing with half con- 
trolled anger. "I am aware of no ceremony in 
which I am in the slightest degree interested. I 
am surprised, uncle," she went on, turning to 
Mr. MacDonald, "that you allow me to be in- 
sulted in your own house, and before your eyes." 

"You haven't any license, Gabriel," whined 
the Banker, catching at the last straw. 

"Haven't I?" cried Gabriel, pulling an official 
envelope from his pocket, "well, this tells an- 
other tale. Come on, Maxine," he continued, "I 
am not going to have any foolishness to-night" 

He took a step forward. 

"You earth scim!" she cried, her beautiful 
eyes aflame with infinite scorn. "Do you think 



The Girdle of the Great 187 

you can frighten me, coward!" Her hand fell 
swiftly to her side, and from her girdle she re- 
moved an exquisite pearl-handled penknife. "I 
do not fear death. Why should I fear you? 
Only this— death — is preferable to you." 

"Maxy! Maxy!" remonstrated Mr. MacDon- 
ald, his face purple from the nervous strain he 
was undergoing, "try to be reasonable, dear. Ga- 
briel only means to do right. He loves you " 

"I hate him!" she exclaimed, stamping her 
foot. "I would sooner love a frog." 

"You hate me, then!" Gabriel cried, a terrible 
expression in his eyes. "Take that back or die!" 
He drew a pistol and leveled it at her heart. 
Ananias Blake's earth-colored face faded to a 
lifeless gray; he stood rooted to the floor, para- 
lyzed in every limb. But the Banker, with a last 
noble impulse — ^the supreme cleaving of blood 
to blood — ^grasped Gabriel's arm, and with all 
his feeble strength, sought to wrest the pistol 
from him. In some way. whether intentionally 
or not was never known, the weapon discharged, 
the ball entering the Banker's breast. He sank 
to the floor with a groan, the blood weltering 
from the wound. He tried to speak, but his voice 
sank with a gurgling gasp. A convulsive shud- 
der passed through his frame, and he was dead. 
He had robbed the pale cashier of his triumph, 
and gone up to face his record on the greater 
book. 

Maxine had fainted and lay upon the floor. 

Gabriel threw the pistol beside her and, in com- 
pany with Ananias^ rushed from the room and 



j 



iS8 The Gi&dle of the Great 

ran rapidly down the street Near a crossing 
they passed a man who was coming towards the 
Banker's house. 

In the glittering glare of a nearby street lamp 
they recognized the Bank Examiner. He recog^ 
nized them, too, but beneath the cover of the 
night they were soon far from possible pur- 
suers. 

4c # 4c 4c 4c 4( # 

The G>roner's Jury simimoned to hold an in- 
quest over the Banker's body reported: 

"We find that Hector MacDonald came to his 
death from a pistol-shot wound at the hands of 
one Gabriel Allen." 

The conclusion was reached by the jury on 
evidence given by the State Bank Examiner and 
the merchant who had sold Gabriel Allen a pistol 
and cartridges. It was further substantiated by 
the Register of Deeds, who swore that Gabriel 
had purchased a marriage license the evening be- 
fore the tragedy. 

Neither Gabriel nor Ananias Blake could be 
found. 

Maxine was therefore fully exonerated from 
even a suspicion of complicity in the crime, it 
being generally known that she had repeatedly 
refused to marry Gabriel. 

A careful examination of the bank revealed 
the fact that Doctor Allen and other large de- 
positors had been robbed of all they had on 
deposit. 

The Doctor was almost beside himself with 
rage. He had recently deposited a large sun^ 




The Girdle of the Great 189 

having mortgaged Rocky Heights to buy a valu- 
able body of timber land, which he meant to sell 
to a syndicate. The owner of the land was down 
South on business and Doctor Allen had merely 
deposited the money for safe-keeping. 

The mortgage on Rocky Heights was held by 
a crusty old miser who would certainly foreclose. 
The Doctor discovered later that the Brandon 
Place had been "salted," and possessed no gold- 
bearing quartz at all. He was eventually forced 
to give up Rocky Heights and move to Anson- 
ville, where he spent the remainder of his days 
in a little tenement house. 

Shortly after the Banker's burial Maxine had 
received a letter from Major Graves, urging her 
to come to New York and make her home with 
him. His house was kept by a maiden sister — 
a most companionable woman, despite her spin- 
stership— and Maxine consented to go. 

It was not without a severe struggle, however, 
that she turned her face from the South. It was 
doubly dear to her — her birthplace and birth- 
right. Moreover, it was the land of his hope. 
Fate had been cruel to her — had by unusual cir- 
cumstances plucked from her the idol of her 
soul. 

Very sadly she packed her trunks, lingering 
over every little faded flower, every little keep- 
sake, bedewing them with tears. 

Major Graves met her at the station. "So 
youVe given up your Southern sweetheart to be 
a Yankee girl!" he laughed when they were 
seated in his carriage. 



I90 The Girdle of the Great 

"Oh, no ; he gave me up," she sighed, striving 
hard to look unconcerned. 

Must she tell the kind old Major of her sor- 
row? He was so tenderly sympathetic always. 
No, she would not tell him. He was getting too 
old to bear added burdens. She would not con- 
fide in him — ^yet. 

"Where is Jerome?" the Major queried, look- 
ing innocently at Maxine. 

"Indeed, I do not know. Major Graves," she 
replied with a half pleading expression in her 
face. 

She gave a sigh of relief when she reached the 
Major's residence and was shown to her room. 

Some time later she was ushered into the 
parlor, a large, cool room, more elegant and at- 
tractive than anything she had ever seen. Her 
heart throbbed painfully as her eyes fell upon a 
life-size photograph of Jerome. 

"Well, what do you think of the city now?" 
asked the Major, as a handsome young man en- 
tered the hall door. (The Major had been pa- 
tiently lying in wait.) 

"Really, Major," the young man returned 
moodily, "I found nothing in it to interest me— 
absolutely nothing." 

"Eh! no pretty women?" 

"No." 

"Come on, then," continued the Major, taking 
him by the arm, "I want to introduce you to a 
young lady friend of mine. And if she doesn't 
interest you Fll give you my sugar refinery." 



I 



The Gna)LE of the Great 191 

*1 am not hunting anything sweet like" — ^be- 
fore he could finish the sentence he was in the 
parlor, the Major having pushed him forward 
and shut him in. 

With a little cry of surprise and delight Max- 
ine rose and came forward. 

Jerome stared at her coldly. "What does this 
mean?" he said harshly. "Is this some cruel jest 
you seek to play upon me? Is Gabriel — is your 
husband here, madam?" 

"I do not understand you," she cried, falling 
back a pace. "Do you think I would marry 
that earth-scum? If you do you are unwelcome 
in my presence. If you had not been so hasty 
you might have learned why I was with him on 
the day of your return from college. I could 
not refuse the request of his dying sister. There 
was no other way for me to go. I " 

Jerome sprang quickly forward and smothered 
the sentence in the sheltering circlet of his strong 
arms. "My own Maxine, my darling!" he 
breathed, kissing her rose-red lips, "forgive me, 
and I will never again misjudge you. And now 
that I ask you what never before you would per- 
mit me to ask you — ^to be my wife — ^what is your 
answer?" 

She was silent, resting her fair head contented- 
ly upon his broad bosom. 

"How shall I know that you love me, Maxine?" 
he continued impatiently. 

For answer she clasped her soft white arms 
about his neck and slowly drew his lips down to 
liers. 



192 The Girdle of the Great 

A radiant glow shone in her face. A light, soft 
as that which kisses a summer sea, stole into the 
depths of her blue eyes and faded not again. 
And it was as if the ancient scholar had seen the 
travail of his soul and been satisfied. 




The Girdle of the Great 193 



EPILOGUE. 

A master hand has touched and transformed 
the estate of Riverwood. On every side one sees 
unmistakable signs of prosperity and progress. 
Never before have its broad acres been so pro- 
ductive — ^a mute but mighty testimony to the 
value of the scientific farming t3rpical of a new 
and greater South. 

But time — ^the great driving wheel of the cen- 
turies — ^has not yet crushed the heart of the old 
mansion. It stands, as it did of yore, stately and 
grand, amid its mighty oaks, like a battle-driven 
warrior amid his old guard, frowning down upon 
the glittering vanguard of a new and stronger 
generation. 

The Colonel, too, like his ancient habitation, 
yet preserves the courtly customs and princely 
dignity of the olden days. His heart is with the 
Old South, and his dreams are of the past. 

Often now, as old men will, he sits dozing in 
the warm golden light which floods his wide 
veranda. Sometimes he will start suddenly, fling 
back his fine old Bourbon head, square his broad 
shoulders, and springing to his feet, stand for a 
moment "at attention," the fires of '61 leaping 
in his blue eyes. Then, as the familiar figure of 
an aged negro, wrinkled, worn and bent, ap- 
proaches him softly, hat in hand, with the studied 



i 



194 The Girdle of the Great 

dignity of the ante-bellum slave, he will smile and 
murmur sadly: "Ah, Sam, I was dreaming of 
General Lee. We are getting old, Sam, old fel- 
low; we're getting old and fogy, you and I. 
WeVe behind the times. They're too fast for us, 
Sam. But we'll soon be gone." 

An ill-concealed note, half of longing and half 
of joy, lingers in the last words, and it is not lost 
upon the former slave. 

"Yas, Marse Bob," he replies in a thin, child- 
like treble, "we*se sho' nuf gittin' ole. An' ef we 
do'n' hurry an' git out'n dis heah worl', we'se 
gwiner git run ovah by er— by er — snortermobile. 
Ev'thing is sho' changed 'roun'. De bottum rail's 
on de top an' de top rail on de bottum. Yassir, 
ev'n de niggers ain' lak dey uster be. Dey's all 
lef de country an' gone ter town, an' dey's all 
studyin' fer ter dodge Ole Man *W'uk. An' I 
sho' hopes Gin'ul Booker Washington '11 larn 'em 
somethin' 'bout 'dustrul eddication. De only 
dust dey raises dese days is de dust dey raises 
wid dey heels w'en dey's leavin' de fa'm. Cla'r 
ter grashus, Marse Biob, I'se mos' 'feard I'll 
wake up wun no dese mo'nin's an' fin' mase'f 
whitewashed." 

But when the time draws near for Major 
Graves' annual visit to Riverwood, the Colonel 
seems imbued with the elixir vita of the olden 
days. 

It is on the long winter nights, when a won- 
derful fire of oak logs roars merrily in the quaint, 
wide fireplace, that the graybeards are in their 

*Work 




t* 



■■~>\ "**«< 



The Girdle of the Great 195 

glory. Then they sit for hours smoking and 
^swapping yarns." And as the conversation 
drifts back into the days of auld lang syne (for 
old men are reminiscent or nothing), the ghosts 
of departed glory seem to take form from fancy 
and the filmy blue wreaths of smoke, and to live 
again. 

Between the two friends the years have forged 
still stronger links of love. Jerome's and Max- 
ine's children call them grandfather alike, and in 
the presence of this new generation all the bitter- 
ness of the past merges and melts into one com- 
mon country and one common cause. , 

4( 4( 4c 4( 4c 4c 

The old ferry has gone from the Pee Dee. A 
magnificent iron bridge has supplanted it, and 
one will call in vain for Jeffries. But he may be 
seen almost any day riding through the great 
estate of Riverwood, of which he is the vigilant 
and capable overseer. He says, "Riverwood's 
jist gotter be the banner plantation in the South, 
because Romey Watkins give up a chance ter be 
governor an' senator ter come back there." 

Another sound — ^the rush and roar of flying 
spindles — has supplanted the thunderous boom 
of the river. This mill, which has more spindles 
than any mill in the South, has come to crown 
with reality of assured success the so-called idle 
dream of a country youth. 

This mill, too, is a model of its kind. In it the 
crime of child labor has never been committed. 
The President, who is a man of courage-colored 
convictions, says it never shall be. Quite recently 
the legislature of his State voiced its hearty ap^ 



196 The Girdle of the Gieat 

proval of his couise by enacting a humane and 
much-needed child-labor law. 

The President of the mill is what is called in 
the South a "stickler" for skilled labor. He be- 
lieves with all his soul that skilled labor is as 
much the product of mind as of muscle. He has 
therefore arranged for his operatives to enjoy 
exceptional advantages of study and self-culture. 
Also he knows his employees by name, and takes 
a personal interest in their welfare. By this 
means he has been enabled to check the drift to 
other mills. His mill is sometimes laughingly re- 
ferred to as the "Utopia Mill," but its output, 
both as regards quantity and quality, is second to 
none in the South. The contented condition of 
its operatives is in manufacturing circles a matter 
of common knowledge. 

The ruling genius of all this progress is still 
a young man. Tall, sinewy, straight as an Indian, 
with a gleam of good humor in his dark eyes to 
soften the sternness of his strong, square chin, 
he looks the captain of industry that he is. He is 
master of every detail of his business. He seems 
a dynamo of tireless energy. Major Graves, one 
of the directors of the mill, sometimes calls him 
a "Southern Yankee." At any rate, he keeps his 
hand upon the throttle of a great opportimity, 
and his face to the future. 

His friends sometimes call him a crank. With- 
out an equal on the hustings, he has arisen 
clarion-voiced in great crises and called his 
people to victory, then retired modestly as a 
woman to his plantation, where, Cincinnatus like, 
he resumed his labors. 




The Girdle of the Great 197 

The State, in her great industrial and intellec- 
tual awakening, has offered him her highest seat 
of honor, but he has not heard with the alacrity 
of the professional politician whose ears are tall 
enough to catch the slightest sound. Perhaps he 
will never hear. Perhaps he loves the field and 
factory too well to exchange them for the toga 
and toothpick of a senator. 

But there is one call that he dares not, cares 
not, disobey. It is a call that he longs for, listens 
for, as anxiously, as ardently, as any lover. It is 
when Maxine, his wife, the soul of his success, 
calls in a voice, silvery and sweet as of yore: 
"Come, Jerome, dear; you're all tired out. Let 
us walk home through the fields.'' 






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